Derrick Rose unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions. Elfrid Payton dealing with a nagging injury. No problem. After a failed four minute experiment with Frank Ntilikina starting at the point guard, rookie Immanuel Quickley took over. Quickley gave the New Knicks the spark they needed. New York’s offense sputtered early, but recovered to capture a much needed 119-97 win over Oklahoma City (16-22) at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Knicks (20-19) were without both of the point guards who have split a majority of the starts during the season. However, they caught a break as Thunder leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran guard George Hill were out injured as well. Hamidou Diallo who gave the Knicks fits in an earlier meeting was also unavailable as he has reportedly been traded to Detroit.
This contest came down to which team’s depleted roster would prevail. With Ntilikina at the helm New York promptly fell behind 7-2 forcing coach Tom Thibdeau to call a timeout. Ntilikina was yanked from the lineup and replaced by Quickley after committing two fouls. Consequently, he was not seen again until garbage time. Meanwhile, Quickley came in and used his patented floater in the lane and long range shooting to turn the contest in the Knicks favor.
Quickley played well despite being questionable for the game with a sore groin. He finished with 21 points and four assists in a career-high 33 minutes off the bench.
New York’s version of Batman and Robin, also known as Julius Randle and RJ Barrett had monster games. Barrett had the first 30-plus point effort of this young career. Randle came back strong from a season-low seven points in the previous game. The All-Star scored 26 points, collected 12 rebounds and handed out 12 assists for his second triple-double of the season. Randle became the first New York player in 32 years to post two triple-doubles in a season for the franchise. Mark Jackson accomplished the feat during the 1988-89 season.
“Mark Jackson did that?’’ Thibdeau after the game. “Mark was a great talent, a great Knick, great guy, too. I think it is a little bit surprising. But Julius had a monster game. To score the way he did, the assists, the all-around play, I think that’s what leaders do.’’
“I had to bounce back, man,’’ Randle added. “I told you I’m usually not great the first game after the All-Star break. I know that about myself. I tried to lock in but history repeated itself. I got right back to it and we got the win and go back home.’’
Oklahoma City led 31-22 after the first quarter. In the second the Thunder held a 33-22 advantage when the Knicks slowly began to chip away. Quickley connected on back to back 3-pointers to get his team closer. However, every time New York closed in Oklahoma City got a big basket. Ty Jerome and Kenrich Williams did their best to keep the Knicks at arm’s length. Late treys by Barrett, Randle and Reggie Bullock finally pushed New York to the lead 56-54 at the half.
In the third the Knicks eventually took control. A three-pointer by Quickley extended the lead to double digits. The margin hovered between six and 10 points throughout the stanza as the Thunder tried to stay competitive. The Knicks led 88-78 heading to the fourth.
In the final 12 minutes New York went on a 7-0 run to lead by 15 at 102-87. Next, a fade away jumper by Randle ran the margin to 17. After that, a late traditonal three point play by Barrett spread the icing on the cake as the lead expanded to 20.
Barrett finished with 32 points to go with five rebounds and three assists. He was often the recpient of Randle’s passes.
“He’s big-time, he was encouraging me to get the 30-ball,’’ Barrett said. “Great leader, great guy.’’
Alec Burks was instumental off the bench. Burks contributed 15 points, several of them coming during the second quarter rally. Bullock chipped in 14.
The Knicks continue their brutal stretch of games on Monday when they head over to the Barclays Center to try their hand with the Brooklyn Nets for the second time this season. Tip off is at 8:00 pm.
(AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck)
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