Knicks guard RJ Barrett gestures after scoring a three-point basket...

Knicks guard RJ Barrett gestures after scoring a three-point basket against the Trail Blazers in the second half of an NBA game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

One day after talking about his desire to finish the season strong and secure a long-term future in New York, RJ Barrett led the Knicks to an easy 128-98 win over a depleted Portland Trail Blazers squad at Madison Square Garden.

It was the Knicks first time back on their home court since Feb. 27 and kept their slim hopes of earning a spot in the play-in tournament alive. The Knicks trail the Atlanta Hawks, who hold the 10th spot in the East, by five games with 13 to play.

Barrett had a team-high 31 points, 14 in the first quarter as the Knicks opened the lead up early. Julius Randle had 20 points, seven assists and eight rebounds while Evan Fournier added 14 points and a season-high six assists.

The Knicks snapped a two-game losing streak with the win. Portland was without Jusef Nurkic, Anfernee Simons, Eric Bledsoe, and Nassir Little in addition to Damian Lillard and Joe Ingles who are each done for the season.

"I said this from the All-Star break on: the team is playing really good basketball," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "But also the spirit of the team, the way they’re practicing, I can see the improvement every day. And that’s what we’re focused on. And look, we’re going to keep scratching. Who knows where this ends up? So, just get ready for Washington. That’s all we’re worried about."

Rose blooming

Derrick Rose was on the floor at the Garden working out before the game and Thibodeau has not shut the door on the veteran point guard getting back into a game before the season ends despite two surgical procedures on his ankle.

"Again, the thing with injuries and the medical stuff is you have to let that run its course," Thibodeau said. "And so we want him completely healthy. That's important. Same thing with Quentin [Grimes]. When you go through practice, see how you feel the next day. We want to make sure they're completely healthy before we put them back out there. And that's why all the testing you do. You establish your baselines so you know where you have to get them back to before you get back out there. And as much as you can do in practice, you can never do anything that could actually simulate the intensity of an NBA game. So you try to get it as close to that as you can, but you want to make sure that the players are healthy."

Grimes time?

Grimes sat out Wednesday night, but is expected to return to action Friday after missing the last nine games after suffering a subluxation of the right patella on Feb. 25.

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