The Knicks pummeled the Cavaliers until there was no pulse and then burned the remains at a fan-less Madison Square Garden on Friday, clobbering Cleveland, 119-83, behind a strong overall defensive effort and beautiful offensive performances from the likes of Immanuel Quickley and Kevin Knox.
New York led by as many as 49 at one point, which is almost a 50-point lead, which sounds impossible for the Knicks, but, well, here we are. With the victory, the Knicks finish the preseason 3-1, and for the first time in a few years, there is what feels like tangible hope. Sure, the Knicks played a Cavs team without Andre Drummond and Kevin Love tonight, and, yes, the Cavs are expected to be one of the worst teams in the league this year, just like the Knicks. But as Stanley Hudson would say, shove it up your butt.
Oddly enough, if not for a rash of injuries to some of our precious Knicks, perhaps the preseason wouldn’t have ended on such a high note.
Injury Report vs Cavs: Out - Burks (personal reasons), Kidd Gilchrist (illness), Ntilikina (sore left Achilles), Noel (sore left knee), Payton (sore left hamstring), Rivers (sore right groin), Smith Jr. (sore left quad) and Spellman (sore right knee).— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) December 18, 2020
With all the point guards out of commission, however, Quickley was given the opportunity to start at point guard, and he quickly picked up where he left off in the team’s previous 100-93 win over Cleveland. From the jump, it was clear Quickley felt confident. He probed the paint, moved the ball and sank each of his first three shots, including two threes, putting the Knicks up 17-5 just a few minutes into the game.
Scroll to see who's QUICKLEY heating up (had to) pic.twitter.com/MxhlQZnY8c— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 19, 2020
It wasn’t just Quickley, though. RJ Barrett displayed his smooth mid-range game while continuing to prove adept at getting to the line...only he’s been hitting his free throws this preseason, which makes him a much different monster for defenses to try and deal with. Meanwhile, Reggie Bullock was ablaze, Mitchell Robinson was playing well while avoiding fouls, and Julius Randle was looking to dish instead of spinning himself dizzy.
Even Jared Harper got in on the action, earning his first preseason minutes as backup point guard and immediately nailing a four-point play. By the end of the first quarter, the Knicks were up 41-18.
The second quarter was more of the same, except it was Knox who led the charge. There’s been a lot of talk about how Tom Thibodeau wants Knox to take smart shots, and tonight he did just that. Each of Knox’s jumpers came within the flow of the offense, and by midway through the third he had already hit three of four three-pointers. He was splashing like your annoying brother in the pool who keeps splashing even after you’ve agreed to a truce.
At halftime, the Knicks led 72-35, and for the first time in a dog’s age, it seemed appropriate to feel confident they weren’t going to let Cleveland crawl back into the game. For the record, Quickley had 15 points and 4 steals at the half, and Knox had 12 points on 4-6 from the field.
In the third quarter, nothing changed again. The Cavs’ tank was still on the empty while the Knicks featured a fresh set of young legs eager to show their worth. Barrett and Robinson continue to display the best chemistry seen on TV since Breaking Bad.
Quickley’s 20th point of the night came on a dunk, in case you were wondering whether slams were part of his arsenal.
With just over a minute to go in the third, Knox’s sixth three of the night gave the Knicks a 101-54 lead. Walt Clyde Frazier said the shots were “falling like rain” for the former Kentucky Wildcat, which could be anyone on the Knicks nowadays, but you know it relates to Knox thanks to the magic of context.
In the fourth quarter, the rest of the bench got to play, meaning we were granted the chance to see Ignas Brazdeikis, Myles Powell and even Bryce Brown. In most blowouts, the losing team ends up cutting into the lead late, and the final score usually doesn’t seem as bad as the rest of the game was. Here, while the Knicks did have that aforementioned 49-point lead, they still ended up winning by 36, which is really freaking significant.
> So this is what it feels like when the team you root for is playing really well. It’s fun when it’s fun to watch your favorite basketball team.
> As noted earlier, for the most part, Knox only took shots in the rhythm of the offense. Late in the evening, his patience was rewarded.
> Turns out Mitchell Robinson can handle the responsibility of starting just fine. The Blockness Monster finished with 8 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks in 27 minutes on the floor. Most importantly, he didn’t pick up a single foul.
> Barrett was 5-5 on free throws. He totaled 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. He looks great.
> Obi Toppin played okay (6 points on 2-5 shooting, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, but 2 turnovers), and an up and down season is to be expected, hopefully with more promise than dismay. Toppin kept driving baseline and getting oh so very close to the sideline before launching wild passes that were actually quite accurate.
If Obi Toppin can drive baseline and find passes like this on a regular basis, that would make me feel a lot better about the Knicks picking him at 8 pic.twitter.com/TFKwqmZwZF— Daniel Olinger (@dan_olinger) December 17, 2020
> Brazdeikis oozes competence. In 17 minutes, he had 1 point (0-2 shooting), 5 boards, 2 assists and a block. Those stats won’t blow you away, but he’s just a confident fellow who can handle the ball and make the right pass. Here’s hoping he finds a role this season.
Iggy oop to Obi -- LOVE IT! pic.twitter.com/2Fz0tOCOyD— NEW YORK KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) December 19, 2020
> Randle was the version of Randle we all wish we could see on a regular basis. He had 11 points and 8 assists in just 24 minutes of action, and was very clearly focused on passing when appropriate once he got into the lane.
> The MVP of the night was Immanuel Quickley, who had 22 points on 7-12 shooting, including 3-5 from deep. He also posted 5 assists and 5 steals.
Jey Van Halen summed it up succinctly on behalf of Knicks fans everywhere: ‘I love the IQ & Barrett backcourt. It’s beautiful’
The Knicks kick off the regular season on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 7 pm in Indiana against the Pacers. Who the hell knows what the starting lineup is going to look like? Certainly not us. For now, let’s just enjoy this wonderful win.