new york knicks
Mandatory Credit: Sarah Stier/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks beat the Charlotte Hornets to extend their winning streak to seven games, the longest current streak in the NBA.

Danny Small

Don’t look now, but the New York Knicks are the best thing going in the Big Apple. RJ Barrett and Julius Randle helped lead the Knicks to their seventh win in a row, knocking off the Charlotte Hornets.

Although Randle didn’t shoot the ball well, his ability to draw defenders and find the open man gave his teammates opportunities to score. Barrett cashed in on those chances in a big way in the second half.

Tom Thibodeau‘s team is buzzing as they climb all the way to fifth in the Eastern Conference and a season-best five games over .500 (32-27).

Here are three highlights and three observations from New York’s 109-97 win over Charlotte on Tuesday night.

Highlight 1: RJ Barrett 3-Point Assassin

Highlight 2: Immanuel Quickley Craziness

Highlight 3: Nerlens Noel Wall

Observation 1: Dominant Second Half

The Knicks put forth an abysmal defensive effort in the first half, allowing 66 points in one of their worst defensive halves of the season. Obviously, Thibs cannot be happy about those 24 minutes, but the coaching staff has to be thrilled with the effort in the second half.

New York held Charlotte to just 31 points in the third and fourth quarter. Reggie Bullock and Barrett were phenomenal on the perimeter while Randle and Nerlens Noel controlled the paint.

Whether it’s the coaching adjustments, an uptick an effort, the team’s overall resilience, or some combination of everything, the Knicks never seem to go away.

Observation 2: RJ Barrett’s Confidence

Much like the overall defensive effort, Barrett’s offense made a complete turnaround at halftime. After scoring just three points on 1-for-5 from beyond the arc in the first half, Barrett erupted for 21 points on 5-for-6 from three in the second half.

This speaks to Barrett’s immense confidence at such a young age. Although he looked hesitant during his early shooting woes, he flipped the switch at halftime.

It’s also worth noting that Randle made it a point to try and get his teammate going. He told the 20-year-old at halftime that he was due for a big second half.

It’s not that Randle has a magic ball to predict the future. He simply made it a point to find Barrett early and often in the third quarter. On a night where Randle’s shot wasn’t falling, he still found ways to lead the Knicks.

“He has great awareness of what’s going on in the game, and he gets people going,” Thibodeau said on a postgame Zoom.And so, RJ in the second, he got a great rhythm going. He’s been shooting the three great for us.”

This chemistry between Randle and Barrett is going to be key for their playoff chances. The defense can keep them in games, but they will need Randle and Barrett’s offense to put them over the top. Speaking of playoffs…

Observation 3: Playoff Preview?

These games are starting to feel like playoff basketball and this back-to-back with Charlotte and Atlanta could serve as a first-round playoff preview.

The Hornets are fading a bit, but the Hawks and Knicks are currently matched up to face off in the 4/5 matchup in the first round. In fact, New York could jump Atlanta with a win on Wednesday night. They already have the tiebreaker over the Hawks if they should finish with the same record.

For now, Thibodeau just wants his team to take it one game at a time.

“The important thing I think for us is not to get lost,” Thibs said. “And you start thinking about down the road, the playoffs, win streaks, and you lose focus on getting ready for Atlanta. And that’s where our focus has to be, we just go day-by-day, step-by-step and if we’re taking care of all the things we need to take care of, all the other stuff will take care of itself.”