Rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley harped about the New York Knicks‘ chemistry after Monday’s shootaround. He’s sensing their team is capable of doing something special.
And they did later that night in the form of a riveting come-from-behind 113-108 victory against the Atlanta Hawks that reinforced his belief.
Quickley poured in 15 of his career-high 16 points in the second half while veteran guard Austin Rivers was clutch once again down the stretch. Their heroics preserved the monster performances of Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, who became the first Knicks duo in 43 years to post at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in the same game.
Julius Randle and RJ Barrett are the first pair of @nyknicks players to each post at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in the same game since Lonnie Shelton and Bob McAdoo in 1977. pic.twitter.com/cqPw3j10g9
â€” NBA History (@NBAHistory) January 5, 2021
Randle mocked the Hawks’ single coverage on him by dropping 28 points, 17 rebounds, and nine assists. Barrett, on the other hand, continued his strong play with 26 points, 11 boards, and five dimes.
The Hawks led by as many as 15, 82-67, midway in the third quarter until Quickley was inserted back into the game. The rookie quickly picked up the pace and hit five straight points while Kevin Knox knocked down two triples in a 17-6 run to close out the third quarter.
Quickley continued to play with a veteran poise adding 10 points in the pivotal moments of the game as the Knicks wrested the lead. An Austin Rivers’ three-pointer off a Quickley assist gave the Knicks a four-point cushion, 110-106, in the final 85 seconds.
Randle’s tip-in with 46.1 seconds left sealed their fourth win in their last five games.
The Knicksâ€™ climbed to above .500 at 4-3, their best start since 2012-13, which also marked the last time they finished a season with a winning record. Mike Woodson, current Knicks assistant coach, guided that Carmelo Anthony-led Knicks team to the playoffs (54-28) after a 7-1 start.
Quickley hopes to do the same this season as he doubled down on his pregame remarks during his postgame chat with Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier.
“I got great teammates with me, and I think we have great chemistry. I think we can do something special. A lot of people should be looking out for the New York Knicks this year,” Quickley said.
The Knicks only hit 1-of-8 three-pointers in the first half but only trailed by four, 58-54, thanks to the trio of Randle, Barrett, and Elfrid Payton, who combined for 40 points in the first two quarters.
Randle was red-hot from the get-go scoring 12 points in the first quarter with the Knicks racing to a 24-14 lead. Then Trae Young, who tallied a game-high 31 points and 14 assists, hit his strides as the Hawks took control in the second quarter.
The Knicks’ defense wore the Hawks down as they held them to just 10 triples, only one in the final frame, on a 32.3 percent clip. It was a far cry from their average of 15.3 made threes on a 40 percent clip before this game.
“We didnâ€™t play great, but we found a way to win,â€™â€™ Thibodeau said. â€œI love the fight in the team.â€
Fight they did as they hustled to win the rebounding battle, 45-40, and produced more points inside the paint (54-50) despite the absence of their other center Nerlens Noel, who was a late scratch due to a sprained ankle.
Thibodeau stuck to an eight-man rotation and was forced to play Randle as a center when Mitchell Robinson took a breather. But it didn’t matter. The Knicks dug deep inside their hearts to pull out another character-building win.
The Knicks will play their next three games at home, starting against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at The Garden.
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