New York Knicks: A surprise duo is blossoming right before our eyes

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers
Jan 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) controls the ball against New York Knicks guard Austin Rivers (8) during the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Knicks made an improbable comeback and beat the Indiana Pacers this past weekend, most were surprised at the results. The Knicks weren’t expected to start the season strong, especially after losing the first two games of the 2021 regular season campaign. However, they bounced back in a nice way, as they currently sit 4-3 on the year and are making significant progress on a daily basis.

However, the return of Austin Rivers and Immanuel Quickley has sparked a jolt within the team. Against Indiana, Quickley finished with nine points over 15 minutes, and Rivers secured 15 points over 17 minutes. That sparked a bit of interest in head coach Tom Thibodeau’s mind, and he utilized them more frequently against the Atlanta Hawks, a game that was quickly slipping away in the first half.

The New York Knicks are picking up steam thanks to some developing players:

In the victory, the Knicks scored 113 points against the Hawks. Quickley scored 16 in 19 minutes of play, staying on the court the entire fourth quarter. He hit all six of his free-throw attempts and shot 4-for-7 from the field. He also connected on two of three shots from downtown. His influence at point guard has been refreshing for a team that has lacked a true playmaker at the position for quite some time. Quickley finished with a +/- of +17 while starting point guard Elfrid Payton landed at -11.

Thibodeau responded to questions regarding his decision to start Immanuel in the fourth quarter over Payton, portraying a sense of confidence in the rookie guard.

“He can shoot. Just the way he approaches the game, attitude, approach. He has that one skill that opens everything up. Every day he’s getting better and better. When you’re as intelligent as him he picks up things quickly. We were searching and struggling and found a group and rode with it.’’

Rivers, on the other hand, played 33 minutes, the third-most on the team behind RJ Barrett and Julius Randle. While he only scored six points, his defense was fantastic and he connected on 50% of his shots.

Overall, Thibodeau was quickly learning that Immanuel and Austin are a fantastic duo off the bench. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the rookie starting at some point in the season, and Rivers is quickly gaining favor within the team. Rivers hasn’t had much time to learn the system, as Thibodeau has simply asked him to go out and play aggressive basketball with a focus on defense. It has worked so far, and as their chemistry grows, I imagine the quality of their performances will too.