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Knicks notes: RJ Barrett’s climb bringing new dimension, Thibodeau preaches composure

RJ Barrett Knicks
RJ Barrett
Sarah Stier/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

New York is a better place when the Knicks are good — and they haven’t been this good in quite some time.

Tom Thibodeau’s men were winners of seven straight prior to Wednesday night’s sizable tilt for fourth place in the Eastern Conference against the Atlanta Hawks. It’s the first time in seven years they’ve won that many consecutively after disposing of the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night, backed by the continued emergence of second-year swingman, RJ Barrett.

The 20-year-old was magnificent in the third quarter, helping overturn a six-point halftime deficit by posting 18 of 24 points in the frame, shooting 6-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 from beyond the arc.

It was just the latest result suggesting that the Duke product continues to trend in the right direction — blending his well-known aggressive, slashing style of play with an ever-improving finesse that comes with an ascending outside shooting game.

A major assist is to be given to the man who rules the roost at Madison Square Garden now, Julius Randle, as the Knicks star provided a pair of vital assists to get Barrett going in that third quarter.

“That’s what Julius has done all year,” Thibodeau said. “He didn’t score the ball like he usually does [16 points], but he made plays for us and he has great awareness of what’s going on in the game and he gets people going.

” RJ got a great rhythm in the second half going. He’s been shooting the three great for us.”

Over his last 10 contests prior to Wednesday night, Barrett is shooting 49.2% from the field and an even more impressive 54.9% from three-point range, and clearly not settling.

“I hate missing,” Barrett said. “I hate when things are not perfect. Especially if I do everything right and I miss the shot, or I do everything right and then I turn over the ball or something. I hate when things aren’t perfect.”

Now with the Knicks reach heights that have not been seen in nearly a decade — firmly entrenched amidst the thick of the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture — it’s up to Thibodeau to help the largely inexperienced squad navigate through newfound winning waters.

“The thing is, the important thing for us is not to get lost,” Thibodeau said. “You start thinking of down the road, the playoffs, win streaks, and then you lose focus. We just go day by day, step by step. If we take care of the things we need to take care of, all the other stuff will take care of itself.

“It’s easy to get knocked off course. you can’t do that. Your focus and concentration are everything.”

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