WASHINGTON — Do not tell New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett that Monday’s preseason game did not carry some meaning, especially with the way his college career ended.
The 2019 first-round pick of New York, seen as the first step of the team’s rebuild back to relevance, punctuated his first-ever game in the NBA by scoring 14 of his 17 points in the second half as the Knicks defeated the Washington Wizards 104-99 at Capital One Arena on Monday night.
Barrett sealed the game with two free throws, fitting because a missed free throw in the same arena late in his last collegiate basketball game at Duke led to the Blue Devils’ elimination in the Elite Eight at the hands of Michigan State this past March.
If you think Barrett had moved on from that heartbreak, especially when he stepped to the free throw line with the Knicks holding a two-point lead with 10 seconds to go, think again.
“Oh yeah,” Barrett said when asked if he was thinking of Duke’s NCAA Tournament loss to the Spartans. “The same arena I missed a free throw that cost us the NCAAs. I got to redeem myself.”
Barrett did a fair amount of redeeming on Monday, rebounding from a poor first half in which he scored just three points on 1-of-5 shooting and missing all four of his three-point attempts. The second half saw the 19-year-old look like the best player on the floor, scoring 14 points and finishing the game with seven rebounds and three assists.
Barrett finished the night playing over 39 minutes, an extended run that allowed many Knicks supporters and basketball followers to see his full potential.
“Everybody on the [coaching] staff told me to keep going, keep pushing,” Barrett said. “It was great to have that support. I had to figure the game out.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Monday evening’s game, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Yusuf Abdullah. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 11 pictures in total.