Preseason game number two is in the books, with the New York Knicks defeating the visiting Indiana Pacers 131-114. RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson cemented the game, once again scoring with apparent ease. But the guy with the most points and dunks was Obadiah Richard Toppin, Jr.
Before tipoff, Cam Reddish was getting the buzz. He played only 15 games for the Knicks last season and started none. Due to Evan Fournier sitting out for rest tonight, and Quentin Grimes laid up with a sore hoof, Reddish got the call to play starting shooting guard.
How’d he do? Eh. Don’t be fooled by the illusion of his +15. Cam finished 1-for-7 from the floor with two points, two assists, and two rebounds. He had a gorgeous, acrobatic score early in the second half, and a timely steal, too, but also a silly foul in the first. His play continues to be a mixed bag, which doesn’t bode well for a wing trying to earn minutes. Still…Love this:
While the Knicks started the game on the bricky side, the Pacers sank three consecutive threes to go up 9-5. Thibs had to call a timeout with 9:42 remaining. Luckily, Barrett and Brunson kept the Knicks close early and combined for the team’s first 17 points. RJ looked especially sharp, going 4-for-5 from the floor initially.
In the first, Isaiah Hartenstein and Immanuel Quickley subbed in at 6:15 to go. Toppin and Derrick Rose subbed in with 4:30 left. Deuce McBride came in for RJ Barrett with 3:13 on the clock. Tom Thibodeau has been more reasonable in his rotation over these first two preseason games. Let’s hope that’s more than just trying out guys in dress rehearsal.
The Pacers played with more pace than New York throughout the first frame and closed it ahead 31-26. Their team leaders tonight were Tyrese Haliburton (20 points, seven assists) and rookie Bennedict Mathurin (19 points, 2-for-3 from deep).
Thibs kept the reserves on the court to start the second quarter: Derrick, Deuce, Quickley, Toppin, and Hartenstein. The bench bunch played well in the first half, showing flashes of unselfish play and cooperative ball-sharing. Duece and Obi played especially well in Q2, combining for four three pointers and contributing solid defense.
Halfway through the second quarter, after the reserve guys had opened up a lead, Thibs started working his starters back into the game. As the Pacers began to play with less discipline and speed, Brunson kept the offense chugging along like a consummate professional. Your New York Knickerbockers ran up a 20-point lead in the second quarter and had 72 points by intermission. Granted, the Pacers’ defense ain’t elite, but take heart, fans: this Brunson-led squad is competent on offense.
Mostly. Whereas New York hit everything after halftime against the Pistons on Tuesday, they misfired after the break tonight. Thibs called a timeout at the 10:24 mark to steady the ship. It felt reminiscent of last season, when the Knicks always seemed flat after halftime. Thibs better nip this in the bud.
The Knicks managed to keep the out-matched Indiana at bay, however, and maintained a double-digit throughout the third. Here’s RJ sharing the wealth.
Their comfortable lead led to sloppy play among the starters. The hungry reserves came back in and did stuff like this to ignite the crowd and keep the lead. Ladies and gentlemen, your reigning slam dunk champion:
By my count, Obi cashed in at least four magnificent dunks tonight. If you paid for a ticket, you got your money’s worth.
Final totals for the Knicks’ starting five:
Brunson: 17 points and five assists, 4-for-12 from the field, 9-for-9 from the line.
Reddish: two points and two steals. 1-for-7 from the field.
Barrett: 18 points, three rebounds, and three assists. 6-for-15 from the field, 4-for-7 from three.
Randle: 15 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. 4-for-11 from the field, 1-for-7 from three. NOTE: No turnovers in two games.
Robinson: 10 points and nine rebounds. 4-for-5 from the field.
- I don’t recall Obi hitting a single three in the first preseason game. In 20 minutes tonight, he went 4-for-7 from downtown and finished with 24 points, three rebounds, two blocks, one steal, and 100% MSG adoration.
- Recently, Evan Fournier raised eyebrows by saying that he hadn’t practiced with Isaiah Hartenstein because Das Herz (h/t/Mark Davidson) worked out with the second unit. One can infer that the starters hadn’t practiced with Cam Reddish, either, and it showed tonight. Particularly telling was when Cam ran into Julius Randle on one early sequence.
- Immanuel Quickley, who I thought would start in place of Fournier, played well again. He finished with 17 points and three assists while shooting 42% from the floor and 50% from deep. He went 3-for-6 from beyond the arc.
- Brunson plays with such physicality, it gives me 90s Knicks flashbacks. He must hit the floor between five to ten times per night. Jalen is durable, but I worry about him taking such a beating all season long.
- By halftime, the Knicks had shot 43% from the floor and had committed only one turnover. They finished the game 45% from the field and with seven turnovers.
- Jericho Sims subbed in at 10:27 in the second, getting his first action of the preseason. He continues to have good hands in passing lanes, and one of his deflections caused a turnover that led to points. On another play, he grabbed a defensive rebound and dribbled up the court, and it didn’t look awful. I love our centers.
- Speaking of... no threes for Hartenstein tonight. Fournier’s record might be safe, after all. Isaiah finished with zero points, six boards, and three fouls.
Quoth SJComic: “Damn what a dunk.” Indeed. They play a rematch in Indy next Wednesday. See you then.