A costly injury doused New York Knicks’ fiery start in a 121-107 season-opening loss to the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night on the road.
The Knicks rode on RJ Barrett’s perfect start to take a 66-61 halftime lead.
The sophomore swingman came out firing from all cylinders, hitting his first eight shots. He finished with a team-high 26 points, 20 in that fiery first half, in a losing effort.
But it wasn’t just an all-Barrett show as Alec Burks came off the bench to fire 19 of his 22 points while Julius Randle turned into a playmaker with eight assists in the opening half.
Randle flirted with a triple-double, finishing the game with 17 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists.
While the Knicks were still able to grab a five-point lead at the half, an injury to their rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley messed up their rotation that hastened their downfall.
Quickley suffered a hip pointer after colliding with Pacers’ big man Myles Turner in the second quarter’s three-minute mark. The rookie point guard was a team-high +/- 5.
Quickley was scheduled to be examined later in the night. The Knicks are anxiously waiting for an update that might come out Thursday.
Randle suffered the same injury in 2016 while still with the Los Angeles Lakers and missed three games.
Depending on the severity of Quickley’s injury, the rookie point guard might miss 1-2 weeks, according to Dr. Ernest S. Eusebio, a New York City-based Performance Physical Therapist & High-Performance Consultant and the founder of the Wolves Performance & Lifestyle Collective, an all-encompassing high-performance consultancy providing solutions in Professional Sport, Entertainment, & Fortune 500.
“A hip pointer is basically a localized bruise to an area of the pelvic girdle, commonly the back of the hip. A lot of swelling can occur in a short amount of time, which can be very painful in the short term, and affects Quickley’s ability to perform basketball movements,” Dr. Eusebio told Empire Sports Media.
“The good news is that this type is resolved by rest & strategic physical therapy. If Quickley can restore pain-free, comfortable hip movement, then he should be getting around on the floor again sooner rather than later. Barring further diagnostics, expect to see him back on the floor very soon (1-2 weeks),” added Eusebio, who has worked with NBA, MLB, NFL athletes, and Olympians.
Offense in disarray
The Knicks felt Quickley’s absence in the second half.
The game turning point was a stretch in the third quarter where the Knicks played without a point guard when Elfrid Payton took a breather.
The Pacers quickly took advantage.
Indiana started to break away, opening up a six-point lead, 88-82, heading into the fourth quarter.
Thibodeau turned to Frank Ntilikina when the Burks-Barrett backcourt experiment failed. But even the Frenchman couldn’t restore order to a Knicks’ offense that became stagnant. The crisp ball movement in the opening half was gone.
By the time Payton returned at the 7:13 mark of the final quarter, the Knicks were already staring at an 11-point deficit.
Knicks’ bigs outmatched
All-Star Domantas Sabonis was no match to Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson as they got into foul trouble early in the game.
The Pacers had a 50-40 rebounding advantage with Sabonis feasting inside the paint. The Pacers big man finished with a career-high 32 points on top of 13 rebounds and five assists. His frontcourt partner Myles Turner also had a career night with eight blocks. He added 10 points and eight boards.
In contrast, the foul-plagued Mitchell and Noel only combined for six points and nine rebounds. Mitchell, who got the starting nod, was hit with two quick fouls while Noel followed suit with three fouls in the first half.
Too much poppin’ for Toppin
Knicks’ lottery pick Obi Toppin scored all of his nine points from the outside. But he was 3-for-12 overall. His shot selection was questionable at times.
The Knicks, as a team, had 12 triples on 42.9 percent shooting from deep.
They were 8-for-15 after the opening half as their hot shooting stymied the Pacers’ zone defense.
Kevin Knox had a quiet four points off the bench and missed his lone three-pointer of the night.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau rued the early foul trouble of his big men and felt they only played “24 minutes of good basketball.”
“At the start of the third [quarter], I thought we played well. Obviously, the second half, I don’t like the way we played at all on either side of the ball,” Thibodeau said in the post-game.
“Each situation you learn from, so you either win or learn.”
What’s next for the Knicks?
The Knicks will be facing the Philadelphia 76ers, who won their season-opener, a come-from-behind 113-107 victory, over the retooled Washington Wizards.
Quickley might not be available, but Thibodeau is confident they have enough backcourt personnel to offset his loss.
“We all saw [Quickley] had a great impact when he went into the game in the first half. But we have more than enough, and so whoever the next guy is, be ready, get in there and get the job done,” Thibodeau said.
Dennis Smith Jr., a healthy DNP, should be the next man up as Ntilikina struggled as Payton’s backup in the second half.
Ntilikina only had a solitary point off a split at the line as he missed his two attempts from the field. He also failed to register an assist during the five minutes that he spelled Payton.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo