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Knicks 120, Wizards 99: “In what universe are we?“

Five-in-six, first In-Season Tournament win!

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

2020 Summer Olympics and 2022 EuroBasket runner-up Evan Fournier, of renowned French nationality and NBA veteranship, led the New York Knicks to a commanding 120-99 victory inside Capital One Garden in D.C. on Friday.

New York (7-5) won an In-Season Tournament game for the first time in franchise history—and this season by extension—after dropping their debut to the Milwaukee Bucks a week ago.

With a capacity of 20,600 and an attendance of 16,886, at least 16K of the souls watching live on location must have been undercover Knickerbockers. Makes sense, as it was Immanuel Quickley’s homecoming (more or less) so his mom, cousins, aunts, dudes, and dudettes did the right thing by packing the stands to give IQ the boost he needed—as if he needed it.

According to Stefan Bondy of the New York Post, the Maryland native “surprised his mother, Nitrease Quickley, at her job at nearby Joppatowne High School” right after arriving in Washington with the rest of the Knicks mob.

“I think it’s a lot of extra juice [when I’m home], like playing a high school game almost,” said Quickley with his mom sitting courtside.

Quickley had a game for the ages, dumping a season-high 27 pops on the Wiz coming off the bench and getting there in just 33 minutes of playing time nailing an efficient 10-of-18 shots from the field including bagging 3-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc and going 4-of-5 from the charity stripe.

It’s just the 10th time throughout his career that Quickley has scored 27+ points, and only the third he’s done so while starting a game sitting on the pine.

Let’s not get lost here, however, and instead return to Fournier. Because boy, oh boy. Fournier entered the game in exchange for Jalen Brunson. The Knicks were leading the game by six points then. The change came after a Tom Thibodeau timeout following an uncontested five-point run by the Wizards.

There were 2:34 minutes left in the first quarter. Brothers and sisters, this was history.

Quoth JalenBrunsavior: “We have 4 legitimate 20+/5+/5+ players on this team. In what universe are we?“

No, Fournier wasn’t one of them. What did you expect?

This laugher of a game was one the Knicks dominated to the extent they wanted to do so.

Could they have finished the Wizards midway through the first period? Probably. Should they have been in a much more comfortable position hitting halftime? Most definitely. Will they need to fix their problems closing out games before we get deeper into the season and that type of thing becomes problematic against serious teams? You bet they will.

The Knicks won by 21 points but there was a tiny five-point difference separating both teams on the scoreboards with fewer than 10 minutes to play.

Of course, Thibs & Co. called game then and there.

From the 9:28 mark (95-90 NYK) to the 5:56 (100-91) the Knicks held the Wiz to no points scored. It would take Washington to the 1:44 mark (115-95) to score their first field goal after only adding points via a couple of freebies before. Clamps applied, job done.

The Knicks missed RJ Barrett for the third consecutive game on Friday and Quentin Grimes was also ruled out after he injured his hand last Wednesday. Barrett was canned from the game around 30 minutes before tip-off because of his ongoing migraines (or a case of back-to-back-first-leg-resting, depending on how you look at it) while Grimes was listed out with a “left wrist sprain.”

“Look, [Barrett] was very sick,” Thibodeau said. “That’s all I’ll say.” Added the coach: “He’s feeling fatigued. There’s stuff you normally feel when you’re sick. When he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.”

With both Barrett and Grimes out, Thibs opted to start Josh Hart on the wings once more and Donte DiVincenzo as Jalen Brunson’s main partner in the backcourt. Cannot argue against the decision.

Brunson scored himself a 32-point bounty on a sublime 10-of-23, 6-of-10, 6-for-6 shooting outing. He added seven mirroring boards and dimes while not turning the ball once.

DiVo played 25 minutes, scored 14 points, and pulled down four rebounds splitting that figure evenly into the defensive and the offensive glass.

Hart got a monster, game-high +27 plus/minus over 32 minutes failing to crack double-digit points but doing a little bit of everything, putting up a 9-5-2 line with a couple of blocks baked into it.

And The Son of Havre de Grace, Md., Immanuel Jaylen Quickley, sure as hell won’t complain about his reserve gig—not today, at the very least.

All other backups, including Fournier, combined for a nice 10-point, 11-rebound, three-assist, three-steal, one-block double-double. Not bad!

There were two more starters on the Knicks lineup because even though the Washington Wizards made it look like this 3x3 basketball, this game is still played under NBA (In-Season Tournament!) rules.

Those men: Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle.

The former wasn’t at his best, but it’s not that the Wiz did enough for him to be put in a position to excel. Six were the points, eight the rebounds. One block, one assist, 27 minutes.

The latter, however, kept building on his strong bounceback backed up by dear Kendra’s comments. Find yourselves someone who loves you as much as KR loves JR, folks.

Randle hit the 22-point plateau for the sixth consecutive game after failing to do so in the first six matchups of the season. He shot 50% from the floor but just 20% from beyond the arc on five long-range attempts. He added seven rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, and one steal packing the line, nonetheless. The turnovers were ugly at six, mind you.

But yes, these Knicks have four players on the 20/5/5 wave. That’s not facts, of course, because the actual stats say that the quartet is boasting a baseline of 16/3/3, but all four of them can put up the prior averages easily on any random night. Allow me to round things up a bit.

  • Jalen Brunson: 23 PPG, 3 RPG, 5 RPG
  • RJ Barrett: 22 PPG, 3 RPG, 3 APG
  • Julius Randle: 19 PPG, 10 RPG, 5 APG
  • Immanuel Quickley: 16 PPG, 3 RPG, 4 APG

Talking about missing Grimes and Barrett, both usual starters, Brunson had this to say: “Next-up mentality. Next man up. It’s not just one person stepping up—it’s everyone stepping up.

“We have a lot of great pieces on this team. A lot of great individuals that can do a lot of great things.”

New York might have allowed the Wiz some run, and they should have been a bit better at the start of the fourth, but they went to work and honestly, they finished Washington without much trouble in a game that never really looked to be in danger of ending in an L.

“I like how we responded from their run when they cut it to five,” Randle said. “[Washington] can score the ball. They’ve got a lot of talent over there. The margin of error in the NBA is very small, so I’m kinda happy the way we responded to their run and closed out the game.”

“I feel like we’re in a good spot,” said Brunson. “Still got a lot of work to do, but definitely trending in the right direction.”

“[The starters and the reserves] have been mixing and matching, so they’re comfortable,” Thibodeau said about the shuffled lineup. “That’s the beauty. Quick is comfortable with both units. Donte is comfortable with both units. There’s not much of an adjustment for those guys.

“And Isaiah [Hartenstein], I’d like to find him more minutes, but Mitch has played at such a high level—there hasn’t been minutes.”

Our boys have won five of their last six matchups. We’re looking at a six-of-seven, and you know it’s coming. Second game of this back-to-back tipping off tonight in Charlotte at 6:00 ET. Don’t miss it.