Barrett scores 27 as Knicks send Hawks to fifth straight loss

NEW YORK (AP) — In a battle between struggling teams, the New York Knicks had arguably their best game of the season and the Atlanta Hawks hit a new low.

Rookie RJ Barrett scored a career-high 27 points, and the Knicks ran away from Trae Young and the Hawks for a 143-120 win yesterday.

Mitchell Robinson had a career-high 22 points along with 13 rebounds, and Marcus Morris also scored 22 for the Knicks, who have won three of four after a 10-game losing streak.

New York improved to 3-3 under interim coach Mike Miller, who took over after David Fizdale was fired eight games into the skid and has the team believing it can turn its season around.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” Morris said. “I’m not going to go out and say we’re going to make the playoffs, but … that’s what we’re fighting towards. That’s the goal. We’re definitely trying hard. Hopefully, we do make it. If we continue to play like this and pull together, we have a great shot to do it.”

New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett dunks. PHOTO: AP

Robinson said the coaching change was a catalyst for the team.

“We were pretty much tired of the way the season was going,” he said. “We just decided we needed to make some changes. We did that energy-wise and we came out and we compete real hard.”

Young scored 42 points for the Hawks, who lost their fifth straight. De’Andre Hunter added 19 points.

Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce delayed his postgame meeting with reporters to talk to his team.

“As expected, a very frustrated room,” Pierce said. “It’s tough when you come off of an effort you have on Sunday against the Lakers and you come here. We couldn’t hit first, we played on our heels, we let a lot of things impact our effort. That’s the biggest thing I keep talking about. Competitive spirit, trying to find that effort. We don’t have it right now.”

New York went ahead by 31 points on Barrett’s three-point play early in the third quarter and never looked back.

Young did his best to keep Atlanta in the game with 22 points in the first half, but New York held the Hawks to 42 per cent shooting in building a 77-53 lead at the break.

The Knicks went on a 26-5 run starting in the first quarter and continuing into the second.