Barrett, Randle struggle, but Knicks see brighter future ahead

MIAMI -- New York Knicks swingman RJ Barrett sat behind a table inside a small room at Kaseya Center late Friday night after his team got knocked out of the postseason by the Miami Heat and stared through the box score of a 96-92 loss that will haunt him throughout the season.

It wasn't just the fact that his Knicks were headed home after making it to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time in 10 years. It was that he couldn't believe he went just 1-for-10 when his team needed him the most.

After a few moments, Barrett finally mustered up one word that described how he felt:


"I played terrible," he said moments later. "I'm very disappointed in how I played today. It's a lot right now. You fight for something, you want something so bad -- I don't feel like I played my best, so it hurts, but it's good to have experiences like these, you can learn from them. [The Heat] are a very good team, very experienced, very poised, so we can learn from that."

The Knicks can take solace in the fact they grew as a team this season, but the reality of Friday's performance "stings a little bit," guard Jalen Brunson said.

Brunson, who scored a game-high 41 points in 45 minutes -- two nights after playing all 48 minutes in a Game 5 victory -- can take solace that he did everything he could to try and carry his team across the finish line. After Brunson's 14-for-22 night from the field, the rest of the Knicks' starters combined to go just 5-for-32.

As disappointed as coach Tom Thibodeau and the rest of his players were with the result of the series, the Knicks are confident they can learn from the mistakes they made against the Heat and grow from them in the future.

"A lot of good moments, a lot of moments of growth," Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle said, while summing up his season. "Things we should be proud of and things that we can learn from as well. I think we'll all take time to reevaluate everything and figure out what we can do better to move forward."

Randle missed the last two weeks of the regular season because of a painful left ankle injury, then aggravated it during a Game 5 series-clinching win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round and was forced to miss Game 1 of the Heat series. Game 6 only reinforced some of the struggles he's had over his past two postseason runs with the Knicks. After struggling in a 2021 first-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks, his play was up and down again throughout this postseason, culminating in a 3-for-14 performance Friday night.

Randle acknowledged being "obviously disappointed," at the way the season ended, but it was Thibodeau who came to his defense while trying to explain how all of his starters besides Brunson could struggle so much offensively.

"Julius is still young," Thibodeau said. "He's going into his prime right now."

As disappointed as he was in the result, Thibodeau said he was proud of the fact that Brunson repeatedly gave the group everything he had while carrying it offensively throughout much of the postseason run.

"When you dig into it, he's one of the best players in the league," Thibodeau said of Brunson. "He shows that every night that he goes out there. The Heat are a terrific defensive team, and to be able to do what he's doing is a credit to him and the way he works ... he's young, he's going to continue to get better and better. He was terrific last season in the playoffs, he was terrific this season, he's always had that ability. And he's never satisfied, and that's what I respect about him."

Brunson earned Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's respect as well.

"How's that dude not an All-Star or All-NBA?" Spoelstra said. "He should be on one of those teams. I wish he was still out West. But man, you gotta respect him as a competitor. He's like a lot of the guys in our locker room. He's got an iron will. There's something about these Villanova guys. ... He's just an incredible competitor."

As the Knicks move into the summer, Brunson reiterated how happy he was to be in New York City and how "excited" he is about the upcoming season.

"We have a lot to prove to each other as teammates and we got to use this as we move forward," Brunson said. "But New York, this is a great year for us ... but keep working on your game, keep getting confidence as a player and as teammates as we move forward. Everybody's got to keep sticking together like we did this year."

Barrett summed things him in his own way -- hoping to find some positivity in the future by learning from missteps he took on Friday night.

"We're going to sit with this one a little bit," Barrett said. "Figure it out and come back stronger next year."

ESPN's Andrew Lopez contributed to this report.