Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau benches RJ Barrett during crunch time

This wasn’t the substitution the Knicks paid $107 million to make.

But there Tom Thibodeau was, with 6:51 left in the fourth quarter, subbing out RJ Barrett in favor of Immanuel Quickley, the third-year guard who has become a defensive spark. That’s how it stayed — through the rest of regulation, through all of overtime and the final 11:51 in total — in the Knicks’ 129-123 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday night.

Quickley played 39 minutes, his most since Dec. 31, while adding 19 points and eight assists. Barrett struggled and went just 5 of 13 from the field, and it was just the ninth game this season he didn’t make a 3-pointer.

The usually accessible Barrett declined to talk to reporters postgame, and Thibodeau didn’t elaborate much on his decision.

“We were just looking for our group to get going,” Thibodeau said. “The group that was out there was what we went with.”

RJ Barrett, defending LeBron James, did not play in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime in the Knicks' 129-123 loss to the Lakers.
RJ Barrett, defending LeBron James, did not play in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and all of overtime in the Knicks’ 129-123 loss to the Lakers.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Barrett had struggled for most of the night, only making two shots through three quarters before hitting three in the fourth and then exiting. Three minutes before his final substitution, Barrett dribbled the ball on the left wing, trying to set up a move outside the 3-point line. But he dribbled the ball right into the reach of a Lakers defender, who stole it, and Barrett picked up a foul trying to recover at the last minute.

Quickley also contributed offensively, as he extended his streak dating back to Dec. 22 of scoring in double-digits in all but one game. In overtime, with the Knicks needing a response, Quickley drove past Russell Westbrook and lifted a shot over Anthony Davis’ outstretched hand, banking it in while falling to the ground.

Immanuel Quickley, not RJ Barrett, was in the Knicks' lineup during crunch time.
Immanuel Quickley, not RJ Barrett, was in the Knicks’ lineup during crunch time.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

He also added a pair of 3-pointers, with a key one coming in the first quarter following an early Knicks timeout, with the Lakers already up 10 points. Isaiah Hartenstein flung a skip pass to Quickley off a broken play and he connected on the shot.

“Just because of what they had going on off the dribble,” Thibodeau said about why he felt comfortable sticking with Quickley. “So I think that was probably — the quickness and speed that they had, and them going off the dribble.”

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