Knicks fall to the Suns as RJ Barrett’s slump continues

PHOENIX — RJ Barrett’s strategy of shooting his way out of a slump isn’t working.

The All-Star hopeful produced another dud in Sunday’s 116-95 loss to the Suns, missing eight of his 11 attempts as the Knicks were embarrassed in the second half at the Footprint Center.

In his last five games, Barrett’s converted just 26 percent of his 76 shots. Even worse, he’s misfired on 24 of his last 26 3-point attempts.

Barrett’s efficiency is among the worst in the league, yet he leads the Knicks in shot attempts.  Both he and coach Tom Thibodeau say the solution is to keep firing away.

“I’ve also seen the other way when you have a really good stretch for however many games,” Barrett said. “So it’s the ups and downs.

“Just trying to take the shots the game is presenting and be aggressive with it,” he added. “So be confident and that’s how I got to keep approaching it.”

Thibodeau suggested Barrett look for easier shots but even his attempts at the rim are bouncing off.

“The big thing is a couple of easy baskets can get him going,” the coach said.

Jalen Brunson, who represented the only positive offensively for the Knicks with 27 points, indicated there’s a mental component to the slump.

“It’s all mental at this point,” Brunson said. “We all have slumps. We all shoot sometimes the way you don’t want to. But it’s all about staying mentally strong and he’s a guy who is mentally strong.”

Barrett was joined Sunday in the poor performance by Julius Randle, who took a backseat in the offense and failed to score in double-digits for the first time this season.

“I don’t know if anything was out of sync,” Randle said about his effort. “Just the way the game was going.”

In other words, he didn’t get  many chances. Randle shot 4-for-11 with nine points and zero free-throw attempts in 27 minutes. Thibodeau harped on the team’s shoddy work on the glass, with the Knicks getting out-rebounded, 60-39, despite the return of Mitchell Robinson from injury.

“The rebounding was a big problem,” Thibodeau said. “I thought we played well in the first half, but against a team like this you have to play well for all four quarters, 48 minutes. So we had that lull, you give a team like that a second and third crack at things, they’ll make you pay for it and they did.”

The Knicks (8-9) were outscored by 19 points in the second half. After dropping two straight, they need a victory Monday in OKC for a winning record on their five-game road trip.

“Win (on Monday), it’s still a great trip,” Barrett said. “Going over-.500 on the road, on this crazy trip, that’s good. So that’s what we’re focusing on.”