NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 12: RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks looks on in the second half against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on February 12, 2020 in New York City.The Washington Wizards defeated the New York Knicks 114-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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The New York Knicks sought to pull off a Sunday upset win over Kawhi Leonard and the deep and dangerous Los Angeles Clippers.

Josh Benjamin

Sunday afternoon NBA games are always a treat, and the New York Knicks were lucky enough to have one over the weekend.

It helped that the circumstances for one were perfect. New York snapped a three-game losing streak with a big win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, keyed by Immanuel Quickley’s 25 points. With home court advantage on Sunday, surely another win was in the cards.

But who did the Knicks have on the docket for this game? Why, only the second-best team in the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers! And with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George playing!

It was suddenly a whole different Sunday. This time, the New York Knicks and their devoted fans would need much more than weekend mimosas and Eggs Benedict to get them through this game.

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1st quarter: The RJ & Randle Show

The first quarter was a testament to Tom Thibodeau’s coaching, because the New York Knicks came out fresher than a Sunday bagel. The team shot 54.5% and put up an excellent defensive effort against the Clippers, who trailed New York 31-29 at the end of one.

Leading the way for the Knicks were, of course, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle. New York basketball’s latest dynamic duo combined for 20 points on just 11 shots, with Barrett shooting 4 of 5 himself. Randle also proved helpful on the boards, pulling down six rebounds.

If these two could keep up their pace, the game wouldn’t be the blowout some anticipated.

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Halftime report: Welcome to Thunderdome

Playing defense went out the window in the second quarter as the Los Angeles Clippers found a groove and led 66-65 at halftime. Similarly, the New York Knicks managed to keep up in the scoring department.

Immanuel Quickley continued his fantastic rookie campaign with 10 points off the bench. Barrett continued to thrive and had 14 points in the half.

However, it’s also worth noting that this game got tougher than boarding the 4 train at rush hour. Several fouls went uncalled, including one where Mitchell Robinson literally wrapped up Reggie Jackson. The game was shaping up to be a close one, and physical at that.

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3rd quarter: Now it’s a slugfest

The Clippers continued their hot shooting by going 13/19 from the field in the third, including five threes. Kawhi Leonard also got hot by scoring 10 points to go with Reggie Jackson’s lucky 13.

The New York Knicks, meanwhile struggled to keep up with Los Angeles’ pace and trailed 101-91 after three. Leonard defended Barrett to the point of the Knicks’ sophomore star scoring just once in the quarter.

If New York wanted to pull off the upset, it’d have to be the hard way.

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4th quarter: Strong start, slow finish

The New York Knicks tried and mounted a few respectable efforts, but just couldn’t close the deal against the Clippers. Quickley’s deep three made it a two-point game early on, but a subsequent and timely 8-0 run allowed the Clippers to pull away. On the day, Los Angeles shot 44.7% from three.

This was particularly frustrating because up until just past the midway point of the fourth quarter, Barrett sat on the bench. Randle returned just seconds earlier. Perhaps if Thibodeau hadn’t put so much trust in his bench, the Knicks would have had a chance.

All told, the New York Knicks got sluggish as one does after an epic New York City Sunday brunch. This time, it meant losing to the Clippers 129-115 in a truly disappointing fashion.

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Player of the Game: RJ Barrett

Immanuel Quickley had 25 points off the bench and should be starting ASAP. Barrett, meanwhile, scored 23 points of his own on 14 shots and looked as confident as he’s ever been in his young career. If he can perform regularly the way he did Sunday, his future as the next New York Knicks legend is bright.

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