RJ Barrett couldn’t wait to get back on the court after his 2 of 15 brickfest Saturday against the Sixers in the home opener.
It was the perfect time for a back-to-back in Barrett’s eyes — even if it was against the Eastern Conference favorite, the Bucks.
Barrett put the Philadelphia fiasco in the rearview mirror and put forth a strong outing befitting his performance in the preseason and in the season opener. In the Knicks’ 130-110 shocker over Milwaukee on Sunday, Barrett was a battering ram again, racked up 17 points with eight rebounds and four assists. He was also a plus-21.
“You want to get back on the court as soon as possible,’’ Barrett said. “I was definitely excited we had this opportunity today.’’
Barrett watched film of the Philadelphia game, in which he missed his first nine shots and wasn’t fazed. The irony is in the season opener versus Indiana, Barrett made his first nine shots.
“The best advice was for myself — that I had another one tomorrow,’’ Barrett said. “I’m not the only person who had a bad shooting night. I was very happy with the result.’’
Coach Tom Thibodeau said he loved Barrett’s mindset.
“Just aggressiveness,’’ Thibodeau said. “When you don’t make shots you can’t let that impact other parts of your game. He had a big first game. When you have a game like that you’re going to have attention. You got to read the game and how they are playing you. You have to use their aggressiveness the way they are closing out to our team’s advantage. He’s doing that with penetrating drives and pressure on the defense and forcing defenses to collapse.”
Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo hardly enjoyed this visit to the Garden and not just because the Bucks lost.
The Greek Freak, who recently signed a contract extension to remain in Milwaukee for five more years, finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
“It doesn’t feel right — the most famous arena without a crowd,’’ Antetokounmpo said. “Usually when I come here I see 20 Greek flags, people cheering, basically the whole Greek community comes out to support me and my team. It’s always nice. The Garden always has this nice energy about it, and tonight it was empty. Hopefully the next time we come to the Garden it’s packed.”
Though the Knicks announced forward Obi Toppin will be reevaluated in 7-10 days, Thibodeau sounded as if their rookie lottery pick could be out as many as two weeks with a calf strain — if not longer.
Toppin re-aggravated a previously undisclosed calf injury in the season opener, Thibodeau said. The rehab process has Toppin unable to put any pressure on his leg for a week, affecting his conditioning. Toppin won’t practice again in 2020.
“When you miss that type of time, with that type of injury, there’s going to be a period of time for him to get back to speed in terms of playing,’’ Thibodeau said. “And so obviously with a calf, you can’t run or jump, so the conditioning component will factor into that.’’
It should be noted the last time a Knicks rookie strained a calf, it wasn’t good. Allonzo Trier, in 2018-19, sat out the final 3 ½ weeks of his rookie season with a calf strain. Toppin missed his second straight game Sunday. Between now and Jan. 11, the Knicks play eight more games. That could mean Toppin misses a total of 10 games.
Austin Rivers, the free-agent signee, is expected to undergo his first contact practice session Monday. He missed all four preseason games with a groin pull and almost all of training camp.
Thibodeau said he plans to stick him back in the rotation, according to sources, when healthy. … Point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who looked uninspiring in his 17-minute season debut Saturday, missed Sunday’s game with a bruised quad.
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