The New York Knicks have gotten off to a hot start this season, overcoming the Boston Celtics in double overtime to win the opener and dominating the Orlando Magic on Friday evening.
Orlando didn’t stand a chance against a deep Knicks team that enjoyed significant scoring production from Obi Toppin, Derrick Rose, and Immanuel Quickley off the bench. The starters also had good games. Julius Randle posted 21 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists over 30 minutes.
Utilizing aggressive defense and incredible three-point shooting, finishing at 44.4%, and hitting a franchise-high 24 shots from range, the Knicks are already in mid-season form. Only two players for Orlando scored over 14 points, Mo Bamba and Franz Wagner. They turned the ball over 18 times, and the Knicks collected 10 steals and four blocks, showcasing they can dominate lesser opponents.
In the past, the Knicks might have played down to their competition, but head coach Tom Thibodeau has the team playing hard the entire game despite the score.
However, the emergence and development of one young player has proven to be a catalyst so far this season. Dayton product and second-year power forward Obi Toppin has displayed incredible growth, ranging from his shooting to defensive qualities.
Toppin contributed 13 points, one block, two steals, two assists, two rebounds, and shot 5-of-8 from the field over 23 minutes. His contributions off the bench have been fantastic, especially in transition when he can electrify the crowd and team with ridiculous athleticism and dunks.
“He’s an incredible athlete,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think he’s in great shape this year.”
Toppin seems bigger and more comfortable on the floor, which has given him an advantage in his sophomore season. It was all about mindset for the 23-year-old, as statistics already reflect a matured player compared to his rookie numbers.
“Once I had that mindset, everything started to slow down a little bit for me,” Toppin said. “And I feel like things are starting to slow down now, this year, a lot more.”
As the game continues to slow down for Toppin and the Knicks string together victories, his confidence should grow along with it. Thibodeau has also done a great job creating specific combinations to maximize his skill set, pushing him down the floor quickly with his high energy work rate and capitalizing in transition.
“I thought he changed the pace of the game,” Knicks guard Kemba Walker said. “He’s a very special talent, and he can run. He can really run and get out in the open floor.”
Toppin is a pace-changer, giving momentum back to his team with exciting plays and using his unique frame to play solid defense. Thibs has used Obi and Randle on the court at the same time, which could be a deadly duo moving forward for New York.