It would be hard to top RJ Barrett’s Friday night. The New York Knicks guard kicked off his weekend by scoring a career-high 35 points on Friday in a 123-117 win against the New Orleans Pelicans. Barrett made history with his performance, becoming the youngest player in Knicks history to score 35 points while shooting 65 percent from the floor. He didn’t just light up the scoreboard in the win, he stuffed the stat sheet as well, finishing with eight rebounds and six assists to go with his 35 points. The 21 year-old shot 12-for-18from the floor, including a red-hot 6-for-8 from beyond the arc, as well as 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in 36 minutes.
After the game, he kept the focus firmly on the team’s accomplishment.
“It was definitely cool to have a career-high,” Barrett told reporters after the game. “But, you know, I’m really happy we got the win.”
Barrett’s big night helped move the Knicks to 5-1 to open the season, the team’s best start through six games since 2012-13. He is averaging 17.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game to start his third NBA season. Barrett was selected third overall by the Knicks in the 2019 NBA Draft after declaring for the draft following his freshman season at Duke University.
“RJ has a great work capacity,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He wants to be good. It’s important to him. He’s very coachable. He's a great teammate. When you see how he approaches things, he has toughness, he has basketball IQ and he has competitiveness. When you have those three things to go along with your talent, you usually improve.”
Canada Basketball fans last saw Barrett in action for Team Canada at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria this past June where Barrett averaged 20.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. His 20.3 point-per-game average ranked third overall in the tournament.
Facing off against Barrett was fellow Canadian Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who finished with 13 points four rebounds and six assists in a Pelicans loss.
In other NBA Canada news, Detroit Pistons forward Kelly Olynyk led the Pistons to their first win of the season with an 18-point, six-rebound, four-assist performance in a 110-103 victory against the Orlando Magic on Saturday. Olynyk, who has played over 40 games with team Canada, also added two blocked shots and three steals in the win.
Though the Oklahoma City Thunder have gotten off to a slow start to the season with a 1-5 record, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has picked up where he left off after a stellar third season last year. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 22.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists through the team’s first six games, including a 27-point, nine-rebound, five-assist night as OKC earned its first victory of the season by taking down the Los Angeles Lakers in a 123-115 comeback win on Wednesday. Luguentz Dort also featured in Wednesday’s thriller, adding 17 points and six rebounds. The victory was hard earned as the Thunder came all the way back from 26 down to stun the Lakers and tie the Thunder’s record for largest comeback in franchise history.
And finally, another wonderful story continues to be Toronto Raptors rookie Dalano Banton. Though the sample size is still small, Banton’s play continues to show why the Raptors felt they had a steal when they selected him with the 46th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Banton has played in all seven of Toronto’s games so far this season, averaging 12 minutes per game off the bench. The 6-foot-7 point guard has made an immediate impact when he steps on the floor, scoring a career-best 10 points in back-to-back games, both victories, for the Raptors this week.