RJ Barrett’s struggles continue in Knicks’ overtime loss to Trail Blazers

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NEW YORK — Knicks fans got a deal of extra basketball on Black Friday but their team blew it.

Tom Thibodeau’s squad went cold in overtime and lost to the Blazers, 132-129, with RJ Barrett providing another pathetic performance.

It was a bad loss considering the Knicks had three days to prepare and didn’t have to face the injured Damian Lillard. But they couldn’t take advantage of the circumstances, and that was largely because of Barrett, who continued his struggles by shooting 6 for 22.

In the last seven games, Barrett has missed (shield your eyes, children) 78 of his 114 shot attempts. On the other end Friday, Barrett was burned by Jerami Grant, who dropped 42 points in 40 minutes with 21 free throws.

The turning point in OT was Barrett’s turnover with 2:25 remaining, which transitioned to an Anfernee Simons’ 3-pointer and an eight-point Portland advantage.

Jalen Brunson kept the Knicks on the brink of victory with 32 points, but he couldn’t make up for Barrett’s misses and Portland’s 49 free-throw attempts.

Simons scored 38 points for the Blazers (11-8). Julius Randle had 23 points for the Knicks (9-10), who’ve dropped two straight at home.

Back-and-forth play ended with a tie after regulation, with Brunson’s potential game-winner bouncing off the rim at the fourth-quarter buzzer. It was a nice play from Brunson, who dribbled through defenders in the paint for an open look — a play he converted about 13 seconds earlier — but didn’t quite have the touch to avoid overtime.

The Knicks had three days off since their previous game, a rarity in the NBA. They staved off alarm bells by going 3-2 on a daunting five-game road trip, handing the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets their first home losses of the season.

It was especially encouraging since many of the Knicks players were sick during the trip, with Randle, Barrett and Isaiah Hartenstein, among others, battling a respiratory virus.

“I was honestly excited to get home. I missed my babies,” said Randle, who has two young sons with his wife, Kendra. “I was excited to get home. Started to feel better as the trip went on. It’s good. You’re right. It could be a lot worse.”

“I thought it was a good trip, the things we went through especially. In Utah and Denver, I think three starters had the flu,” added Hartenstein. “And us coming in, Julius playing with the flu and all that stuff. I thought we had a good road trip.”

Still, the Knicks also benefited from good fortune. In the last week, they faced the Nuggets without Nikola Jokic (health and safety protocols), the Suns without Chris Paul (heel pain) and, on Friday, the Blazers without Lillard (calf pain).

Earlier this month, they also beat the Sixers without Joel Embiid (illness).

The Knicks were only missing role players Cam Reddish (groin injury) and Derrick Rose (toe). Brunson continued his strong play with 16 points in the first half on 5-of-7 shooting. He scored at least 20 points in 12 of the 19 games this season.

Brunson drew praise from Blazers coach Chauncey Billups, the former Knicks point guard who had a similar playing style predicated on shiftiness. More steak than sizzle.

“He does it from the neck up, man,” Billups said. “He’s not physically faster or can jump higher. He’s just really smart. Gets it done with his angles. His pump fakes. He just gets it done and plays the game with his neck up. Tough as nails.

“We were different players but I also tried to play the game with my mind. I wasn’t that fast. I was stronger than most guys. But I wasn’t that fast. I couldn’t jump. But I had to find an advantage somewhere. And that’s what he’s done.”