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RJ Barrett, Alec Burks spark Knicks' late rally over Wizards

The Knicks' RJ Barrett and the Wizards' Rui

The Knicks' RJ Barrett and the Wizards' Rui Hachimura watch Barrett's shot during the second half of an NBA game Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

After the trade deadline passed, Tom Thibodeau spoke about his affection for the current team, insisting he was pleased that the Knicks kept nearly the entire roster intact. It’s safe to say that his message at halftime a few hours later might not have been quite as kind.

After opting to keep the team nearly whole at the NBA’s trade deadline Thursday, the Knicks took the floor at Madison Square Garden against the struggling and shorthanded Wizards, whom they had dominated two days earlier. But with the suspense of whether some of them might be shipped out, the Knicks relaxed — maybe a little too much.

The Knicks fell behind by as many as 17 points and still trailed by 11 entering the fourth quarter before finally raising the energy level, taking charge for a 106-102 win at the Garden.

The Knicks (23-22) outscored the Wizards 39-24 in the fourth quarter. They are in a virtual tie for fourth place with Charlotte in the Eastern Conference.

"Well, he wasn’t too hectic today," Taj Gibson said of Thibodeau’s halftime speech. "He gave us a calm talk, understanding, basically just saying work the game, understand the principles, stay together, believe, trust the pass, trust the shot. Because we really couldn’t hit any threes early in the first half. But he kept saying, ‘Believe in each other, trust the timing, trust the shot. Everybody do what they have to do to get the W.’ "

The wake-up call happened on the defensive end for the Knicks. After allowing 60 first-half points, they limited the Wizards to 42 after halftime. Alec Burks scored 27 points off the bench — his fourth straight game with at least 20 — and had 15 in the fourth quarter. RJ Barrett had 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

The Knicks cut the deficit to 11 entering the fourth quarter when Barrett followed up his own miss in the paint as time expired. The usually placid Barrett shouted repeatedly, pumping up a team desperately in need of an infusion of energy.

"I was trying, trying to get the team pumped up, myself pumped up," he said. "We had to fight. I knew we could get that win. We all believed it. Very glad that we went out and got this one."

Immanuel Quickley’s floater to start the fourth quarter cut it to nine. Taj Gibson then made it 78-71 with a dunk, prompting the Wizards to call timeout just 1:31 into the quarter.

Burks made it 80-74 with a corner three-pointer and sank another three to chop the Knicks’ deficit to 82-79. Gibson then cut to the rim and took a feed from Barrett, converting the layup and drawing a foul. But he missed the free throw that would’ve tied it.

The Wizards answered every time, stretching their lead to six before Barrett’s three-pointer. Barrett then stole the ball and took contact from Bradley Beal on a fast break, converting the layup, drawing the foul and tying it at 91 with 4:45 left.

Quickley hit a three-pointer with 4:12 left, giving the Knicks their first lead of the night, 94-91.

As bad as they looked at times, the more concerning news was Julius Randle repeatedly rubbing his right quadriceps. When he went to the bench for the start of the fourth quarter, team trainers strapped a heating pad to his thigh, but he was back in the game with 7:06 to play.

Randle, who had 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists, helped secure the win, grabbing a rebound with the Knicks protecting a four-point lead. He then went one-on-one and delivered a baseline jumper with 29.1 seconds remaining.

Quickley hit two foul shots with 9.7 seconds left for a five-point lead and Burks hit two more with 3.9 seconds left to seal it.

Beal had 26 points and nine assists, Rui Hachimura added 21 points and Russell Westbrook had 13 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists for the Wizards.

The Knicks trailed by 15 at the half, shooting 32% from the floor, including 1-for-14 from three-point range. They were without two of their better defensive players: Reggie Bullock was sidelined by a sprained right ankle and Nerlens Noel (sore left shoulder) was a late scratch.

New York Sports