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Knicks continuing their new-found 3-point prowess

The Knicks’ transformation into a lethal juggernaut from 3-point range continued Saturday night in New Orleans.

RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker combined for 15 of the Knicks’ 19 connections from beyond the arc, and they shot 57.6 percent as a team from long distance to hold off the undermanned Pelicans in a 123-117 win at Smoothie King Center.

“I don’t want to take reckless [shots] and race it up … just to jack up 3s. That’s not what we’re trying to do,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think it’s taking the right shots and being disciplined about it and doing it together.

“The thing I love about our team is a lot of times we have like three or four drive-and-kicks on the same play. And that’s when you’re playing for each other and that’s when you’re really a team. Those are the hardest things to guard because you really can’t script those. Those are just reads, so [if] we play like that, we’re going to score a lot of points.”

Evan Fournier hit five 3-pointers in the Knicks' 123-117 win over the Pelicans.
Evan Fournier hit five 3-pointers in the Knicks’ 123-117 win over the Pelicans.
NBAE via Getty Images

The Knicks (5-1) came into the game first in the NBA with 16.2 made 3-pointers per game, including a franchise-record 24 in a win Oct. 22 at Orlando. They made 11.8 3-pointers per game last year, 21st in the league.

They also finished third in the league in shooting percentage (39.2) from long range — behind the Clippers and the Nets — but their 30.0 attempts per game ranked 27th in the league.

With the offseason additions of Walker and Fournier, Thibodeau emphasized an increase in 3-point attempts this season. The immediate result is the Knicks now are averaging 117 points per game, a full 10-point rise from last year’s 26th-place finish in scoring.

“We have a goal, right, but I want us to take the right ones,” Thibodeau said. “And so if we’re 19 for 33, that’s a heck of a percentage. Just take the right one.”

“Sometimes if you get fixated on the number and you just start chucking them recklessly, where that hurts you is in your defensive transition. So we have to know when everyone’s shooting them and we have to make sure that we can have the right floor balance and you have a chance to offensive rebound. All that, that’s what winning basketball is about. Shot selection is a big part of winning.”

In the first three minutes of the game, four different Knicks — Walker, Fournier, Barrett and Randle — drained 3-pointers for a quick 14-3 lead.

Walker sank four of seven attempts from beyond the arc and is hitting on 57.9 percent (22-for-38) of his 3-point attempts for the season. Fournier converted five more Saturday night for a team-best 23 through six games.

And Barrett, who had a career-high 35 points, went 6-for-8 from deep and buried two clutch 3-pointers in the final two minutes after the Pelicans — playing without injured stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram — twice had cut the Knicks’ lead to two.

“I think we’re just playing with good flow and going with what’s in front of us,” Fournier said. “I think that’s what happens when you share the ball, when you have guys that are willing to pass the ball to each other and are happy to do it. It’s been a really good start to the season honestly. And we just have to keep getting better.”

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