A strong start to RJ Barrett’s season has been sidetracked by a knee issue.
Barrett missed Wednesday’s 95-89 loss to the Cavaliers at the Garden with a sore left knee.
The game was the second end of a back-to-back, and Barrett had played about 25 minutes in Tuesday’s win in Cleveland.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau said Barrett would be a game-time decision, and the Knicks officially decided against Barrett playing about half an hour before opening tip.
Thibodeau declined to comment on how close Barrett was to playing, saying it was the medical staff’s decision.
It is believed that Barrett’s injury stemmed from tweaking his knee in the season-opening loss to the Celtics, and he has been managing it since.
And mostly managing it well.
Through a tiny, four-game sample size, Barrett has been arguably the Knicks’ best player this season.
He has shot the best of his career from the field (45.3 percent) and from 3-point range (42.9 percent) while averaging 21 points, three rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, maybe taking another leap in his fifth season.
Without Barrett, Josh Hart entered the starting lineup.
“That’s his role,” Thibodeau said of Hart, who scored 11 points on 5 of 14 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists.
With a running jumper in the first quarter, Jalen Brunson surpassed 5,000 career points.
After scoring 24 points on 8 of 23 shooting, the sixth-year guard has scored 5,022 points.
Without Barrett and playing a game on a second consecutive day, Thibodeau turned to Deuce McBride for a season-high 9:24, including action in the first quarter.
The reserve guard played well and came away with two steals and three points on two shots.
“I thought Deuce gave us really good minutes,” Thibodeau said.
The Knicks entered play averaging 39 3s per game, which was eighth-most in the NBA.
Their 37.2 percent mark was ninth-best and a big jump from last season’s 35.4 percent.
Expect the Knicks to keep gunning from deep, which was a goal last season and remains one this year.
“We ended up being I think top 10 in 3-pointers attempted last year and also top 10 in 3-pointers made,” Thibodeau said. “That was our goal: to be high-volume and at minimum league average.”
The Knicks were third last season in free throws taken and entered play ninth, which is also a focus.
Thibodeau wants his team to attack the rim and take open looks from deep.
Thibodeau was asked whether he cared about the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament. Group-play games begin Friday.
“If they’re keeping score, you got to care about it,” Thibodeau said. “I think everyone’s excited to see what it looks like.”
This story originally appeared on NYPost