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RJ Barrett has a hand defensively in Knicks' win over Magic

Orlando Magic forward James Ennis III (11) shoots

Orlando Magic forward James Ennis III (11) shoots with Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) defending during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in New York.  Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

In the closing minute Monday afternoon, with the game up for grabs, RJ Barrett got a hand in the passing lane, deflecting a pass from Aaron Gordon, and when Reggie Bullock tossed it ahead to him, he navigated his way to a contested fast-break layup that gave the Knicks a four-point lead with 46 seconds left.

Barrett still has struggled in some areas in his second season — three-point shooting remains a problem, and he was 0-for-3 Monday. But he had 22 points and 10 rebounds in a 91-84 win over the Magic and spearheaded a defensive effort that has limited the opposition to 75 and 84 points in back-to-back games.

In the last four games, Barrett has averaged 20.3 points and shot 49.1% from the floor.

"His attitude’s been great. I think he’s in a really good place," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "At the beginning of the season, people were talking about his shooting, but he was doing so many other things well for us. He was rebounding the ball well, he was making very good rim reads, he was high in assists on most nights.

"And I really believe the shooting will come around. He’s put a lot of extra time into it. He’s in a good rhythm now. He has real good balance. I think the sky’s the limit. I think he’s learning, as most young players do. But he can score a bunch of different ways and [has] the ability to put it on the floor, catch and shoot, play pick-and-roll, post up, run the floor, and when he moves without the ball, that’s what makes him really, really tough to guard, I think."

Rivers dries up

Austin Rivers is struggling through a shooting slump, shooting 1-for-13 in the last three games and 4-for-23 in the last four.

New York Sports