LOS ANGELES – The Knicks staged a storybook first half, collapsed in the second half, rose from the dead to force overtime and still lost in a rollercoaster contest to the Lakers on Saturday.
RJ Barrett forced overtime with a dramatic 3-pointer with 8.3 seconds left and finished with a career-high 36 points, but the Lakers squeaked out the victory, 122-115, at the newly named Crypto.com Arena.
The Knicks couldn’t steal the thunder from LeBron James’ triple-double return, even after overcoming a second-half nightmare. The Knicks went stone cold in overtime – shooting just 2-for-11 – after Barrett, who finished with a game-high 36 points, brought them back from an eight-point deficit in the final minutes of regulation.
James, after missing the last five games with knee issues, conveniently came back for the nationally televised contest against the team he loves to torture and rang up a triple-double – 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
After pummeling the Lakers in the first half while building a 21-point lead, with Julius Randle and Barrett dominating, the Knicks fell to pieces in the third quarter, when they were outscored 31-13.
“The third quarter was problematic,” Tom Thibodeau said. “Then we had a good fight down the stretch. And didn’t get it done. There’s always good and bad in every game. My concern is we got to get it done. ”
But after falling behind by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, the Knicks were suddenly alive again. Malik Monk missed a jumper and the Knicks raced down, with Evan Fournier feeding Barrett, who drilled a game-tying 3-pointer, making it 111-111 with 8.7 seconds left.
With one chance to win it, James missed wide right on a jumper over Mitchell Robinson and the teams headed to OT.
The disappointing Lakers had all of their Big 3 healthy and Anthony Davis was a beastly presence in racking up 28 points and 16 rebounds. Monk crushed the Knicks for 29 points to make up for a dud game by Russell Westbrook (1-for-10).
This looked like it would become a statement win and instead disintegrated into a huge letdown for the Knicks because of all the promise they showed early in the contest five days before the trade deadline.
They fell a season-worst five games under .500 at 24-29 in kicking off a make-or-break western trip.
Randle finished with 32 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists. Randle had a shot at the rim blocked by Davis and another one rejected by James, but a foul was called.
The second-half collapse was capped when Davis stole a rebound from Robinson and dunked it for an 80-79 lead – the Lakers’ first one – with 4:40 left in third. That capped a 25-7 start to the second half.
The Knicks trailed 87-84 entering the fourth quarter after being routed 31-13 in the third.
After Westbrook bricked two free throws with under a minute left in regulation, Alec Burks had a chance to bring the Knicks to within one point, but bricked a 3-pointer from the corner with 52.1 seconds left.
It was painful with Randle cooling off and then falling into a cameraman seated baseline. Randle came up clutching his shoulder before shooting free throws. He later got a technical foul for shouting from the bench with 28.9 seconds left in the third quarter.
Randle and Barrett played with ferocity in the explosive first half in scoring 20 and 21 points, respectively, but quieted down after intermission.
The Knicks notched a season-high for points in a first quarter with 41. They staked themselves to a 71-56 lead at halftime. They led 11-0 at the start and kept it up all half.
Barrett was brilliant in the first quarter by racking up 17 points, mixing it up with 3s and spinning, powerful drives.
Randle carried the Knicks in the second quarter, highlighted by a fastbreak lefty dunk on Davis after a Westbrook turnover.
Randle finished out the half with a 3-pointer after he preened downcourt, staring at his own bench and the Lakers’ bench.
James notched 15 points in the half and got cooking in the second period. But when the Lakers cut it to 10, the Knicks exploded on an 11-2 run.
Obi Toppin got the run going with a fast-break hoop off a Robinson steal. Barrett barreled in for a driving basket, Randle hit a 3 and the Lakers fans turned surly when Westbrook missed the rim entirely on a jumper, triggering boos inside the famed arena on Figueroa Avenue.
Westbrook shot just 1-for-7 from the field to lowlight the Lakers’ first-half showing. The Knicks were on fire, going 9-for-20 on 3-pointers, but they still missed their free throws (14-for-21).