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 made just 26 percent of his 76 shots. Even worse, he’s misfired on 24 of his last 26 3-point attempts.

His efficiency is among the worst in the league for players with such high usage, yet both Barrett and coach Tom Thibodeau say the solution is to keep firing away.

He was joined Sunday in the poor performance by Julius Randle, who was out of sync and failed to score in double-digits for the first time this season.

Randle shot 4-for-11 with nine points in 27 minutes. Jalen Brunson was the only positive offensively with 27 points.

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.

Sunday marked the return of Mitchell Robinson, who logged 17 minutes with two points as the backup center. Robinson missed the previous eight games because of a sprained knee.

Thibodeau acknowledged he was unsure of Robinson’s conditioning level after such a long layoff.

“No matter what you do in practice or conditioning, cardio, all that stuff, it’s so different than in a game,” the coach said. “The intensity of a game, where you’re having contact. It’s a lot different.”

Isaiah Hartenstein started but picked up two quick fouls and was benched for all but three minutes of the first half. Jericho Sims picked up the slack and, moving forward, there will be competition for the center minutes.

“I feel great about all three guys, but only two will play most games,” Thibodeau said.

The Knicks caught a break with Chris Paul out for the Suns because of a sore heel, the sixth straight game the future Hall of Famer missed.

Thibodeau was forced to alter his lineup because of injuries, with Quentin Grimes replacing Cam Reddish at shooting guard. Reddish suffered a strained groin in Friday night’s loss to the Warriors. He’s considered day-to-day.

Grimes finished with 10 points in 32 minutes.

NOTES

Derrick Rose suffered a toe injury on his right foot and sat the entire second half. He finished with seven points in eight minutes. Rose, 34, missed the final four months of last season after undergoing ankle surgery. Miles McBride took Rose’s spot in the rotation while playing 13 minutes in the second half…Jalen Brunson finally missed a free throw in the fourth quarter but not before securing the second-longest streak in Knicks history. Brunson knocked down 46 consecutive — moving ahead of Chris Duhon. Courtney Lee owns the record with 52 straight foul shots.