Knicks plan to play RJ Barrett at power forward if Obi Toppin misses time

RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, New York Knicks
Apr 2, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin (1) celebrates with New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) after scoring a basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

After Obi Toppin was ruled out in the second half of Wednesday’s win against the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau experimented with a new small-ball lineup.

Instead of re-inserting Cam Reddish into the rotation, Thibodeau started the fourth quarter with a Miles McBride, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes three-guard alignment with RJ Barrett as the power forward.

McBride, Quickley and Grimes’ energy and defensive toughness disrupted the Hawks’ offense.

That group held Atlanta to 1 of 6 shooting, including five straight misses, and forced a turnover in 3 minutes and 38 seconds of play as the Knicks extended their lead to 95-69 before Julius Randle returned for Barrett.

Thibodeau plans to go with that lineup again if Toppin, who exited at the 6:06 mark of the second quarter and never returned, will miss more time.

“We’ll figure it out. I like the idea of RJ being there [as power forward]. He showed us last year how effective he could be at the four. So that’s a possibility.”

Tom Thibodeau postgame via MSG Network

The Knicks labeled Toppin’s injury as a sore right knee. He is expected to undergo MRI on Thursday although Wednesday night’s X-ray returned negative, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Toppin left the game after scoring three points on 1 of 3 shooting in eight minutes off the bench. His status for Friday night’s game in Charlotte remains a game-time decision.

Reddish, reportedly on the trade block, did not play even during garbage time. There is no sense for Thibodeau to put him back in the rotation if he’s already on the way out.

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