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Knicks 102, Cavaliers 82: “I love IQ”

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So does the entire city of New York

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Immanuel Quickley hasn’t stopped amazing me yet.

The effect that he has on the game when he’s really on is unreal. Look no further than last night for proof.

The Knicks came out flat against the Cavs, led by Elfrid Payton. Actually, they came out beyond flat. If the “flat” thing was a basketball in this analogy, then the strips of leather were still sitting in a bin at the basketball factory and hadn’t even been bound together by rubber and assembled into a ball yet.

The time was 5:25 left in the first quarter. That’s over halfway through the quarter, for those of you keeping score at home. The Knicks were shooting 1-8 and had turned the ball over a couple times behind the brilliant Payton-led offense, and were down 13-3. They were on pace to score about 24 points for the whole game!

Then Alec Burks made a shot at 5:11 to make it 13-5. But the show finally started when Quickley checked in at the 4:47 mark. Increasingly, Quick checking into the game seems to be the time when Knicks fans are given the green light to have fun in any given game. And have fun, we did.

Suddenly, with Quickley in for Payton and Austin Rivers in for Burks (but mostly the first part) there was spacing. RJ Barrett got free for a dunk on a Julius Randle assist.

A few plays later, Quickley got free for a trademark floater.

But what really set the tone for the rest of the night was how IQ ended the first quarter: with a step-back three that, a few weeks ago, I really wouldn’t have thought was something he had in his bag.

But like I said, he keeps surprising me every day! Just like that, the Knicks had taken a 13-3 deficit at the 5:25 mark and turned it into a 19-16 lead at the end of the quarter. From there, the rout was on.

The second quarter actually didn’t belong to Quickley, he was saving his best for later. But RJ went nuts in the second quarter, scoring 11 points on 4-6 shooting to get himself to 16 at the half. Obi Toppin also put in some quality minutes off the bench, putting in five points in about eight minutes of action.

The Knicks entered the half up 14 points after a 28-16 second quarter. And unlike the collapse against the Jazz the other night, the second half was even better, because we were treated to the IQ Show again.

Let’s try to fill in some spots on the “What does Quickley have in his bag?” bingo card. Baseline dunk over Jarrett Allen (who still is way worse than Mitchell Robinson, by the way. We haven’t forgotten):

A little hesi/fake to the right to freeze Taurean Prince for another triple:

Another pull-up, an extremely craftily drawn foul, and a 4-point play (plus maybe one of the best in-the-moment Knicks celebrations since JR did that thing eight years ago):

A midrange pull-up, which, given Quickley’s release of his jumper, was not something I thought he’d have in his bag right away. Of course, this is over the tiny Darius Garland, but still impressive nonetheless.

A second 4-point play in a matter of six minutes. Some guys wait weeks, months, years between 4-point play opportunities. Quickley forces about one realistic 4-point play ball per game, if not more.

And finally, the capper for Quickley, a nice little floater in front of Allen (who, again, is not as good as Mitch).

All in all, Quickley finished the night with a team-high 25 points, five rebounds, and three assists.

As commenter Heart Like John Starks said, “I love IQ.” So do I. So should you. It was such a fun game. I haven’t smiled like an idiot this much during Knicks games in so long. Amazing what some solid point guard play can do for you.

Notes

— I feel like I write this almost every recap when he has a subpar game by his new lofty standards, but Julius Randle has really found a way to impact games even when he’s not scoring the ball consistently, and that’s not something you could say about him last year at all. If any team was going to know what to do to try to game plan against Randle, it was this Cavs team that the Knicks have now seen five times between preseason and the regular season (and I think are done seeing for the year? It’s been real, Sexland). So with the added attention from the (actually pretty formidable) Cavs D, Randle made an effort to find his teammates a bunch, and was a big part of the run that brought the Knicks back at the end of the first quarter, despite not scoring his first points until the second quarter.

And on defense, Randle helped be a rising tide as well. Julius and Mitch both got chided by Clyde for giving poor effort in transition in the first quarter when the Knicks were falling behind big. Chances are, Thibs probably said (and/or yelled) some of the same things at them on the sidelines. Randle then flipped the script in the second half and delivered a key defensive play when the Knicks needed to stymy the Cavs’ last gasp at a comeback:

All in all, Randle ended up with 16 points (7-13 shooting), eight rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a block. If you haven’t already, vote #JuliusRandle #NBAAllStar on Twitter or vote Julius in here.

— I probably didn’t do RJ enough service above but he was an absolute bully all game, ending up with 24 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. He was done no favors by having Elfrid start the game, just like every other player on the team. But he and Randle flashed their chemistry in this game, particularly Randle finding RJ. That connection was the lone three points of the first six minutes, and Randle found RJ for three of his six assists on the night. I know there’s a lot of debate among Knicks fans about whether Randle should be part of the long-term plan for the Knicks or not, but I really think that once IQ is in the starting lineup for Payton, we’ll get to see even more why building around RJ, Randle, IQ, and Mitch (for now, at least) might be a good idea.

— I had totally almost forgotten about this weird-ass foul that Cedi Osman committed on IQ until I was looking for a pic of Quickley for the header (which, by the way, there were literally three pictures taken of IQ last night by both Getty and USA Today — the one Joe used for the postgame, the practice shot I used above, and this one. Do better, photo wire services!). What the hell was this foul? Osman went like full WWE. Or maybe it was more like traditional Greco-Roman wrestling. Let’s meet in the middle and say it was Kurt Angle-esque.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

— Austin Rivers put together a second straight good game. Not quite as good as his 10-10 25-point nuclear bomb against the Jazz, but 13 points, three rebounds, three assists, and three steals off the bench is the type of (more sustainable) stuff I’d love to see from him.

— Taj Gibson got 40 seconds of playing time! I don’t know why it made me so excited in the moment. I guess it’s just nice to see a familiar face sometimes.

— A little PSA: the Dallas Mavericks are a half game out of 14th place in the Western Conference, and we’re now over a quarter of a way into the 72-game season. The Knicks are currently eighth in the East. I know in our wildest dreams a lot of Knicks fans were dreaming of multiple lottery picks in what’s supposed to be a stacked 2021 draft class... Could the wild card there actually end up being whether the Knicks will miss the playoffs or not?

That’s all I got for this game. It was so fun. I can’t wait to do it again. Unfortunately, the level of competition will step up quite a bit with the Clippers coming to town tomorrow afternoon. Will Thibs start Elf again and set the Knicks back early on? Because I don’t think a 13-3 hole against the Clips will be quite as easy to come back from, even with the prodigious powers of Quickley. I guess we’ll see in about 24 hours!

If you’re hungry for more on this game, check out Collin Loring’s recap over at The Strickland!