NEW ORLEANS – Zion Williamson came disguised for Halloween week as a flamboyant spectator, sitting next to the baseline seats, in last place on the Pelicans’ bench.
The Pelicans star wore a very large, bright yellow hoodie and had a pretty good place to watch his former duke, RJ Barrett, do a scary-spectacular, career-high show for the Knicks at Smoothie King Arena.
Barrett surpassed the inactive Williamson 35-0 in a sensational performance as the Knicks continued their red-hot start with a 123-117 victory over the unfortunate Pelicans.
The 35 points were career highs for Barrett. He was amazing throughout the game, shooting 12-to-18 and 6-to-8 from 3-point range and adding with eight rebounds and six assists, but he kept on his own Pelicans’ late attacks in the final two minutes as the Knicks improved to 5-1.
Barrett knocked in a big 3-pointer with 1:40 left after the Pelicans reduced the Knicks’ lead to two, after which he beat the spectators. The Knicks shot 19-for-33 from 3-point range.
A running Barrett then fed the Taj Gibson to a layup with 1:05 left after the Pelicans came within two again. And Barrett topped it with a 3-pointer with 43 seconds left, to bring the Knicks up 119-112, after which he was bullied by his teammates.
After draining a 3-pointer from the corner early in the fourth quarter, Barrett turned around and looked to look briefly at his former college brother.
Pelicans spoil with 1-6 – plagued by Williamson’s seasonal rehabilitation from foot surgery. On Saturday, the Pelicans gave their second star, Brandon Ingram, a day off after waking up “tenderly” after Friday’s loss to the Kings, rookie coach Willie Green said.
Barrett and the increasingly close Williamson are on divergent paths with the Knicks ‘swingman slowly emerging as a future All-Star and two-way player, while the Pelicans’ injury history is becoming daunting.
Barrett’s gem followed his terrific 20-point play in Chicago as he also stopped in defense against DeMar DeRozan.
Williamson, number 1 in the draft 2019, has not yet made his season debut. The half-empty stands were a reflection of a crowd of fans waiting for the return of a player who had been billed as the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James.
The Knicks, meanwhile, have their best start since 2012-13, when they opened 6-0. The case could be done, the schedule has not been tough, with two games against the Magic and one each against the Pelicans and Celtics under 0.500.
The Knicks came out bombing, with point guards Kemba Walker, Julius Randle and Barrett shooting early 3s as they jumped to a 14-3 lead after three minutes.
The Knicks maintained a comfortable lead for most of the first half, with Barrett excelling. He even got in touch with Mitchell Robinson for an alley-oop. Barrett scored 10 points – so did Randle and Walker. The Knicks shot 9-for-18 from 3-point range in the half, but let a big lead slip away.
Before the game, Green said of the Knicks: “I’m impressed they shoot 50 3s. That’s typically not the case with any team. [Tom Thibodeau] coaches. It’s great for the league the Knicks play as well as they do. ”