Duke basketball product sizzles with new career-high

Duke basketball (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) /

In his latest game, RJ Barrett was as stout as in his Duke basketball days.

Yes, RJ Barrett is beginning to flirt with greatness at the sport’s highest level. The former Duke basketball one-and-done shooting guard is now a third-year full-time starter for the New York Knicks, who currently sit in a four-way tie atop the Eastern Conference standings at 5-1.

And on Saturday night, Barrett exhibited arguably his best performance since going No. 3 overall at the 2019 NBA Draft. His career-high 35 points, including 25 after halftime, represented a game-high in the Knicks’ 123-117 road win over the New Orleans Pelicans, who are now 1-6 and were without their Duke basketball products in Zion Williamson (foot) and Brandon Ingram (hip).

This season, Barrett’s previous high was his 20-point effort in the last outing. As for his career, he’s eclipsed the 30-point mark only one other time, with 32 points at the Oklahoma City Thunder in March.

Against New Orleans, Barrett also contributed eight rebounds, six assists, and only one turnover in 36 minutes on the court. Perhaps most impressively, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound Canadian southpaw shot 12-for-18 from the field, 6-for-8 beyond the arc, and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe.

Duke basketball gem’s rising production

Although the top-shelf NBA Blue Devil had early numbers this season that largely fell below his career numbers, the 21-year-old’s career night versus the Pelicans significantly boosted those averages. Now, RJ Barrett’s 17.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game this go-round are on par with last season.

Meanwhile, he’s knocking down 48.1 percent of his attempts from the field and 38.2 percent from downtown. Encouragingly, both of those percentages are higher than Barrett’s career percentages.

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RJ Barrett and the New York Knicks return to action at 7:30 p.m. ET Monday when they host the Toronto Raptors (4-3) in Madison Square Garden.