RJ Barrett
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The New York Knicks desperately needed a big, momentum-shifting win when the feisty Memphis Grizzlies visited Madison Square Garden.

The New York Knicks had lost five of their last six entering Friday night’s matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies. Even worse, the Celtics destroyed them on the boards in Boston on Wednesday night. This loss dropped New York to No. 8 in the East, with play-in games becoming a very real possibility.

Furthermore, Friday’s game had some added lightning thanks to Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant. He and young Knicks star RJ Barrett were taken one after another in the 2019 NBA Draft. Though the Knicks would have loved to have Morant’s scoring prowess, they instead chose Barrett’s athleticism after Morant went No. 2 to Memphis.

Long story short, the Knicks really needed to show Memphis not only that Elvis is overrated, but that a hungry New York team is a dangerous one. Even for a non-conference matchup, this had the vibes of a very important game.

Let’s begin.


1st quarter: Grizzly Men

The New York Knicks continued to struggle in the first quarter on several levels. Not only did they commit a whopping five turnovers, but they let the Grizzlies outscore them 35-23. Surprisingly, both Morant and Barrett were nonfactors as Morant sunk a pair of threes, while Barrett didn’t score at all.

Rather, Memphis mauled the Knicks thanks to a tough defense that had New York forcing its shots, not to mention 11 points from the electrifying Dillon Brooks.

Derrick Rose gave New York some momentum with nine bench points, but Julius Randle hit early foul trouble. The future was looking bleak.



Halftime report: Stumbling upwards

The New York Knicks trailed 60-51 and really had no business doing so. All four of Randle’s first-half points were scored at the free-throw line. Barrett didn’t score his first points until there were 21.1 seconds left in the second quarter.

Even Rose seemed to hit a wall despite 13 points off the bench. In fact, the Knicks’ bench scored 31 of the team’s 51 points in the first half.

It’s truly disappointing not just as a Knicks fan, but I was really looking forward to making tons of Elvis jokes tonight. I mean, come on! Well, better ready this gif preemptively in case the second half is just like the first.



Third quarter: Ja Rules

You’d think that on the day that New York hip-hop icon DMX passed away, someone who shared his rival’s name wouldn’t have the spotlight. Instead, Morant went off in the third and scored 14 points to give himself 20 on the game.

The third was also significant for the New York Knicks despite their playing constant catchup with Memphis. Randle finally scored his first field goal of the evening and the team finished on an 8-1 run.

Even so, the Knicks had their work cut out for them against this tough Grizzlies team.



4th quarter: Barrett’s Revenge

The New York Knicks came to play and had the fourth quarter they so desperately needed. Not only did they outscore Memphis 31-24, but did most of their damage in the final two minutes. Not even a costly Alec Burks turnover with just 1:17 remaining could stop them.

But the man of the hour was Barrett. He sunk three key free throws to tie the game at 112, and then again with a driving layup against Morant following Jonas Valanciunas’s missed free-throw.

Onto overtime!



Overtime: In a New York Finish

Yes, between DMX, Ja Rule, and now Don Henley, we’ve had lots of shoutouts to your favorite writer’s music collection. All joking aside, overtime was the finish these New York Knicks both needed and deserved.

Alec Burks scored seven of his 19 points in overtime. Randle came alive and achieved yet another triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. Barrett broke a tie with a clutch three and continued to prove he can be a star for the Knicks.

All in all, it was a phenomenal 133-129 win for the Knicks, and hopefully a big enough W to get them back on track.



Player of the Game: RJ Barrett

Barrett overcame a slow start and practically carried the Knicks from the fourth quarter on, finishing with 20 points on 13 shots. Also, honorable mention for New York’s bench, who combined for 72 total points.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.