Derrick Rose bloomed again as a starter. Immanuel Quickley regained his swagger. Alec Burks was a killer in the fourth quarter.
The backcourt trio took turns in presiding over the New York Knicks‘ royal beating of the Sacramento Kings, 140-121, on Thursday night in front of a limited but loud and animated home crowd.
The 2,000 fans who showed up had so much fun as the Knicks threw a party that rocked The Garden.
They serenaded Julius Randle and Quickley with M-V-P chants and went nuts when Frank Ntilikina, who hadn’t played since Dec. 29 last year, was finally unleashed from the doghouse.
Ntilikina was solid off the bench, collecting seven points, two assists, and three steals, and was tied for the second-highest net rating among the Knicks with +17.
But it was Rose who opened up the party with fireworks.
Rose replaced Elfrid Payton, who was out with a hamstring injury, in the starting lineup and instantly boosted the league’s worst offense. The former MVP hit his first seven shots en route to his most impressive outing — 18 points and six assists — since the trade.
With Rose’s promotion, Quickley was handed down the keys to the second unit offense, and the rookie guard snapped out of his slump.
After a dreadful three-game stretch where he shot 3-for-22 overall, Quickley scored 18 points in just 10 minutes in the opening half as the Knicks opened up a 77-62 lead.
The Kings, however, refused to hand the win on a silver platter and came within seven in the fourth quarter. That’s when Burks caught fire as the veteran guard scored 19 of his 24 points.
Burks and Quickley combined for 49 points off the bench, outscoring the entire Kings’ second unit, who put up 33.
Six players scored in double figures for the Knicks, led by Quickleyâ€™s 25 points.
â€œThat’s the great part about this team,â€ Quickley said. â€œWhoeverâ€™s night it is, we roll with them. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed each otherâ€™s success. Thatâ€™s what makes this journey so special. This team is so special.â€
On nights like this, they indeed look special on the court.
Quickley had his third 25-point game on just 10 shots. It was his fourth game with at least 25 points leading all rookies. He went perfect from the line (12-12) and added three assists and two steals.
Randle, the newly-minted NBA All-Star, took the backseat but still came away with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists. He shot 50 percent from the field.
The Knicks, who entered the game averaging a league-worst 103.6 points, already had 101 against the league’s worst defense by the end of the third quarter. They dropped their highest scoring total in almost two years on season-highs 58.6 percent shooting and 19-of-36 three-pointers.
“Offensively, when we share the ball and make the right plays, I’m very confident in our shooting ability,” Tom Thibodeau said.
De’Aaron Fox led the Kings, who slumped to their ninth straight loss, with 29 points and 11 assists.
The Knicks moved up to the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Toronto Raptors with a 16-17 record. They have another chance to reach .500 when they take on the Indiana Pacers on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. at The Garden.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo