The Knicks, losers of three in a row and four of their last five heading into a crucial three-game road trip, didn’t bother downplaying the importance of Tuesday night’s win over the Spurs, where everything finally seemed to come together.
“Yeah, we needed that,” Mitchell Robinson said. “Nobody wants to lose. Hell yeah we needed that. We needed that bad. We’re desperate right now.”
Robinson, after being sent to the bench in favor of Nerlens Noel as Tuesday’s starter, was a key piece in the road victory with 11 points, a team-high 14 rebounds and three blocks, while RJ Barrett broke out of his shooting slump with a career night that included 32 points while shooting 7-for-8 from beyond the arc.
After Saturday’s flop at The Garden against the Nuggets, a dominant 121-109 win was exactly what New York needed.
“Great energy, great effort,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The focus was much better.
“It wasn’t just the energy and the focus, it was the unselfishness on both sides of the ball. That’s the way you have to play.”
Thibodeau specifically pointed out the unselfishness of Julius Randle, who didn’t have a field goal in the first half but consistently found open shooters like Barrett all night, before catching fire himself in the second half to finish with 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while shooting 3-for-5 from downtown.
“He didn’t fight the double team,” Thibodeau said. “He made great decisions, great plays the whole night. If we do that, we can play off that.”
Randle committed just one turnover along the way, while the group as a whole committed just 10. The collective effort, which also included 18 points from new starting point guard Alec Burks (this was the team’s first win since benching Kemba Walker), pulled the Knicks back to .500, and potentially provided the blueprint for the season’s turnaround.
“This was a big one for us, just to get us back on track, and now hopefully continue to roll, especially on this road trip,” Barrett said.
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1