Ever since it became clear that rookie Immanuel Quickley was the real deal — in other words, many months ago — fans have been begging the Knicks to slide him into the starting lineup. It took half the season, a couple of injuries, and a sluggish start to an important game, but Tom Thibodeau finally put IQ in his rightful place alongside RJ Barrett and Julius Randle to begin the second half of Saturday’s tilt with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The results? Pure magic. New York’s newest Big 3 crushed the Thunder as a two-point Knicks halftime lead turned into a 119-97 romp.
The Thunder aren’t a playoff contender, and they were missing their star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but they didn’t make it easy at first. Frank Ntilikina got the start at PG with Elfrid Payton and Derrick Rose out, and struggled in the first few minutes. The Knicks gave up 31 points in the first quarter and trailed by eight. They dug out of that hole in the second quarter thanks to the hot shooting of Quickley (21 points on 9-16 shooting), who rediscovered his floater.
Quickley knocks down another floater, but the real highlight here is Clyde’s commentary about Horford pic.twitter.com/THLM8l9uZF— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) March 13, 2021
Alec Burks closed out the half as the nominal point guard, and fans were wondering if yet another dude would man the point over Quickley. But Thibs shocked us all by giving IQ the reins to start the third. OKC’s coach put his top perimeter defender, Luguentz Dort, on Quickley, and RJ Barrett went off.
Barrett finally cracked the 30-point threshold after several recent near-misses, dropping an efficient 32 points on 12-21 shooting. I say “finally” as a joke, since the dude is still only 20 years old.
RJ BARRETT— The Strickland (@TheStrickland) March 13, 2021
ALL SMILES pic.twitter.com/AAi07VNbrG
It should be noted that RJ took 6 more shots than he did Thursday in Milwaukee, when Elfrid Payton ran the offense. Anyway, RJ is in complete command of his game at the moment, and with the Thunder defense concerned about Quickley, he had room to get to the rim at will. He also hit 3-6 from three, because that’s just something RJ does now.
Oh, and Julius Randle was there as well. Poor Julius was a bit overshadowed by the excellence of his young teammates, despite putting up monster numbers of his own: 26 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds. It was the second triple-double of the season for Julius, the first Knick to record multiple triple-doubles in a season since Mark Jackson.
Randle decided it's time to just win this game pic.twitter.com/eF5FY6BwE8— The Strickland (@TheStrickland) March 13, 2021
Will Thibs start IQ again? That’s a story for another time. For now, let’s just enjoy the W. Recap to come.