3 takeaways from the Knicks 100-109 loss to the Pacers: Vets get starting nod, Barrett on fire

The Knicks are looking to clear cap space ahead of free agency, and they’ve discussed trades involving center Nerlens Noel and guard Alec Burks.
Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks.
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The New York Knicks lost to the Indiana Pacers in a Wednesday night preseason game, which saw most of the starters playing solid minutes, along with several of their youngsters playing critical roles for the team. 

The contest marked their third preseason game, and the first loss — but there was still plenty to be happy about for Knicks fans. 

So what should we take away from the game? Below are three key observations from Wednesday’s loss:

Randle outperforms Toppin

The biggest questions the Knicks need to address before the season starts is who will be their go-to starting five. 

There are some no-brainers in that regard, including RJ Barrett (more on him later) and newly-signed point guard Jalen Brunson, who will both be in the starting lineup for the entirety of the season, provided they remain healthy. 

But, there are open questions, and several positional battles still raging — with the most important being the power forward contest between 27-year-old Julius Randle and 24-year-old forward Obi Toppin

Head coach Tom Thibodeau sent Randle on the court first, yet Toppin played nearly as many minutes in the contest.

Randle played slightly better than Toppin, as the veteran scored 13 points on 5-10 shooting, and went 3-6 from beyond the arc. The younger power forward scored eight points on 4-7 shooting, and missed all three of his three point attempts. Randle also hit the boards harder, securing eight rebounds to Toppin’s two. 

If the preseason contest is any indication, Randle is going to head into the season as the number one option in New York. 

Fournier holding on to starting role

In keeping with Thibodeau’s propensity to give deference to his more-seasoned vets, the coach has continued to give the starting nod to 29-year-old Evan Fournier over the other multi-talented guards on the roster.

While Quinten Grimes missed the contest entirely with a foot injury, Immanuel Quickley and Miles McBride were both present and healthy, but were still relegated to the bench to start the game. 

In 24 minutes Fournier scored eight points on 7-14 shooting (including 1-5 from beyond the arc), while securing four rebounds and three assists. 

In the same amount of time on the court, Quickley recorded 12 points on 4-18 shooting (2-7 from three), and had one rebound and three assists. 

McBride drew the short stick for the game, playing just 18 minutes — and he was unable to capitalize, essentially becoming a non-factor.

The longjam at the guard position, with Fournier, Quickley, Grimes and McBride is one of the more interesting aspects of the game to watch — but all indications are that the oldest of the bunch, Fournier, has a leg-up just a week before the season’s opening tip-off. 

RJ Barrett continues to shine

In positive news, RJ Barrett looks like he’s in mid-season form. 

The power forward, who the Knicks drafted third overall in 2019, recorded 21 points, four rebounds and three assists over the course of 27 minutes. 

Beyond his solid stats, Barrett looked like his conditioning was top notch, and he was constantly looking to get his teammates involved. His clear on-the-court chemistry with Brunson was palpable, and that should bring a smile to every Knicks fans’ face. 

The Knicks success this season will largely depend on Barrett taking his game to the next level. And Wednesday’s preseason game was a significant boon to those hopes. 

For more coverage of the Knicks, head to amNY.com.