New York Knicks: Barrett named to Rising Stars, Quickley snubbed

New York Knicks‘ sophomore swingman RJ Barrett was voted for the second straight year to be part of the World Team in the Rising Stars. Curiously, Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley was left out of the U.S. Team, which had four rookies.

However, the NBA Rising Stars game will not be played this year due to the limitation of having All-Star events all on one night.

Barrett joins fellow Canadians Nickeil Alexander-Walker (New Orleans Pelicans), Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder), Brandon Clarke (Memphis Grizzlies), and Mychal Mulder (Golden State Warriors).

Miami Heat forward Precious Achiuwa (Nigeria), Washington Wizards forwards Deni Avdija (Israel), Rui Hachimura (Japan), Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (Argentina), and Théo Maledon (France) complete the World Team roster.

NBA All-Star Zion Williamson of the Pelicans and the reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant of the Grizzlies banner the U.S. Team.

Two-time reigning Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets, top overall pick Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings guard, and two-time reigning Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month Tyrese Haliburton and James Wiseman of the Warriors made the team were the only rookies selected.

The other sophomores joining Williamson and Morant are Heat guard Tyler Herro, Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter, San Antonio Spurs guard/forward Keldon Johnson, and Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.

Quickley, the Knicks’ stellar rookie, was the biggest snub. The 25th pick Quickley is leading all rookies with the most 25-plus point performances this season, with five followed by Ball and Edwards with three each. He also leads all rookies in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) with 18.8, followed by Ball (18.7) and Haliburton (18.2). The Kentucky product also ranks third in free throw percentage in the whole league, shooting 94.2 percent. Only Jordan Clarkson (96.6%) and Chris Paul (95.3%) shoot better than him from the free-throw line. He leads all rookies with 98 total free throws made with Edwards, a distant second with 80, and Ball with 68.

Quickley, who has season averages of 12.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.4 apg, came in third in the latest NBA Rookie Ladder.

The Rising Stars rosters were determined by the league’s assistant coaches, who were made to select four frontcourt players, four guards, and two additional players at any position for each team.

Voters selected a minimum of three first-year NBA players and three second-year NBA players for each team. The assistant coaches were not permitted to vote for any player on their team. Each of the league’s 30 teams submitted one ballot per coaching staff.

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Knicks fall to Spurs as Rose enters COVID-19 protocols

A last-minute shelving of Derrick Rose and a last-second three by Patty Mills in the first half doomed the New York Knicks in San Antonio.

The Knicks went back to .500 after a lethargic 119-93 loss at the hands of the Spurs Tuesday night in their penultimate game before the All-Star break.

Late scratch

Already without their starting point guard Elfrid Payton (sore hamstring), Mitchell Robinson (broken hand), and Taj Gibson (ankle injury), the Knicks were hit with another setback.

Rose entered the league’s health and safety protocols just an hour before tip-off that threw the Knicks off their rhythm.

With Rose and Payton out, fourth-stringer Frank Ntilikina, who has only played seven games before facing the Spurs, made his first start of the season.

Ntilikina did an admirable job finishing with 13 points in 25 minutes but failed to register a single assist.

Out of rhythm

The Knicks’ starting unit got buried at the start of the first and third quarters, which hastened their downfall.

Reggie Bullock only had three attempts after averaging eight in their last three wins with Rose at the helm. Nerlens Noel was brilliant on defense but could not handle the ball on offense.

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett had an additional burden of playmaking on top of shotmaking. It didn’t work as they failed to keep up with the Spurs’ more cohesive lineup.

Immanuel Quickley, Kevin Knox, and Obi Toppin knocked down a three-pointer each that brought the Knicks within two, 25-23, in the opening period.

‘You get what you deserve’

It was a tight game from there until the Spurs caught the Knicks’ defense napping right before the halftime buzzer. Mills drilled a well-executed corner three-pointer that gave San Antonio a four-point halftime lead and the momentum.

The Spurs got it going in the third quarter, with Mills hitting three of the Spurs’ seven triples that broke the game wide open. San Antonio outscored New York, 37-21, in that pivotal quarter. The Knicks never knew what hit them.

“Obviously, we didn’t play our best. When you’re on the road, you have to play well for 48 minutes. We didn’t do that. [We] didn’t close out the second quarter well. We didn’t start the third (quarter) well,” Tom Thibodeau said after the rout. “You get what you deserve.”

The Knicks deserved to lose the game as they let the Spurs shot 48.3 percent from the field and 18-of-32 from the outside. They were thoroughly outplayed, with the Spurs issuing 31 assists against the Knicks’ 18.

Reality check

Their top-two defense was nowhere to be found as they looked more tired than the Spurs, who were coming off an overtime loss to Brooklyn last Monday night.

The loss should serve as a reality check for the Knicks, who will face more tough teams like the Spurs after the All-Star break. They will play 26 of their 35 games against playoff-caliber teams in the second half of the season.

The Knicks didn’t specify if Rose tested positive for COVID-19 or he was only under contact tracing. But either way, the Knicks will have to play out their last game in the first half without him.

Ntilikina over Quickley

Ntilikina will likely remain as the starter in their rematch against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.

“I was just trying to keep the second unit together as much as I could. And the size of their point guard also factored in as they have a very good offensive rebounding guard,” said Thibodeau explaining his decision to start Ntilikina.

The 6-foot-4 Dejounte Murray scattered 17 points, six rebounds, six assists, and three steals, while Kentucky product Trey Lyles, who started for LaMarcus Aldridge (stomach ailment), had a season-high 18 points with four triples for the Spurs.

Immanuel Quickley paced the Knicks with 26 points, his fifth 25-plus scoring in the season, which leads all rookies. He hit six three-pointers and added four rebounds and four assists off the bench.

Both Randle and Barrett sat out the entire fourth quarter. Randle wound up with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, while Barrett scored 15 on another efficient night, going 5-for-9 from the field.

The loss snapped the Knicks’ three-game winning streak and shoved them down to the sixth spot in the East, just half-game ahead of the Miami Heat.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: When The Garden comes alive in new normal

Three hours before the Madison Square Garden opened its doors to fans for the first time in almost a year last Tuesday, Anthony Donahue was the first to show up.

Donahue, a New York Knicks superfan, anxiously waited for 352 days for this moment to arrive.

“It was tough, Donahue told Empire Sports Media while he was preparing to attend his second straight Knicks game last Thursday. “Everything has been tough the last 11 months — personal trials and tribulations. When you’re going through something personal, and you don’t have [any place to go] — for me, my favorite place to go in the world is the Madison Square Garden. So to not have that for 11 months, it’s tough.”

 

The music in The Garden hit different for Donahue in an emotional return. It was a bittersweet moment for him.

“I was thinking about my little sister, who passed away from brain cancer back in August at the age of 21, and how I’ve been bringing her to Knicks game all her life. And she’s not here physically with me anymore. Even when she was not with me at the games, she was texting me, telling me to bring her home popcorn or food, or asking me who I saw because people at The Garden are family to me. I was thinking about her the whole time,” Donahue said.

Gianna Gregoire and Anthony Donahue stand at center court before the Knicks-Celtics game on Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of Anthony Donahue

The Knicks superfan found solace in The Garden, where the special bond and fandom he shared with his sister Gianna Gregoire will forever be remembered.

A season ticket holder since 2004, Donahue had become one of the most famous fans at the world’s most famous arena, even parlaying his passion into a career when he hosted a Knicks-centric podcast show for SNY. His first indoctrination to The Garden’s mystic began during the Knicks’ Finals run in 1994. In 2001, just as the Knicks started their plummet to the dark ages, Donahue remained loyal and started regularly going to the games.

This season is one of the better times to be a Knicks fan. The Knicks are winning some games.

They are playoff hunting instead of tanking.

Imagine the Knicks fans’ agony of not having the chance to watch their beloved team rock The Garden on some nights.

“The waiting part was tough, man! You’re used to going to games. I’ve been a ticket holder for 29 years, so it kinda sucked not being able to get into your normal routine, and the fact that the team was playing really well made it even worse. We haven’t seen good basketball in a while,” another Knicks superfan Greg Armstrong told Empire Sports Media.

Greg Armstrong posed for a souvenir photo during his return to The Garden. Photo courtesy of Greg Armstrong

Armstrong, a ShopRite supermarket manager, has been a Knicks fan since the 1973 championship team, which he said he followed religiously on Channel 9.

Basketball is a religion in New York. If Rucker Park and the other city playgrounds are the chapels, the Mecca is the basilica.

“We all know what basketball means to the city. We’re excited about it. There’s nothing like it, there’s no place like the Madison Square Garden, there’s no place in the league like that,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau before Tuesday’s game. “Our fans are our lifeline.”

Every Knicks game equates to a day of worship for the fans. Pilgrims from all over New York and even from outside of the five boroughs come together and transform The Garden into a basketball paradise where players love to indulge.

For almost a year, the fans were confined to watching the games on TV, following and passionately debating every news and rumor on social media.

So last Tuesday, that joy, which COVID-19 took away, returned, albeit only experienced by a small group of Knicks fans.

“Being one of the few [people] to attend was special because it was like our own private experience and one that I’ll look back on as a once in a lifetime (I hope!),” David Perlmutter told Empire Sports Media.

“My first thought last [Tuesday] night was wow, no one is here! I knew it was only 10 percent, but until I arrived, I could not grasp the size of The Garden compared to 10 percent attendance. It was like we were part of an incredibly private club, which I guess I kind of was.”

After the game, a Knicks spokesperson told reporters that their first attempt at bringing back some sense of normalcy was a success. The sold-out crowd of 1,981 were able to clear all health protocols.

“Everyone was wearing a mask and following the rules, and at one point, my friends and I were congregating in the lobby, and they told us to split up,” Armstrong said.

“It was strict, but it was smooth. You have to make sure you have your COVID-19 test result with you, show your ID, and stuff like that. I didn’t have any problem nor noticed anybody who encountered a problem,” Donahue added.

If Donahue shared his Knicks fandom with his late sister, Perlmutter shares his passion with his son. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop them from continuing their father-and-son bonding last Tuesday.

“I was with my son Levi who is 6 yrs old, and he has been coming with me since he was 2+ with noise-canceling headphones. Since I’ve been going to games with him, I have very little interest in going to any games without him. Watching the game through his eyes is my favorite thing to do,” Perlmutter said.

David Perlmutter and his son Levi enjoy the Knicks-Warriors game, marking the first time that limited fans are allowed in the Madison Square Garden. Photo courtesy of David Perlmutter

Perlmutter, a managing partner of the Forrest Hills Financial Group, has been a Knicks fan since 1992 and a season ticket holder since 2005. But last Tuesday, he saw The Garden in a different light.

“It was the first time I was able to tour The Garden, which was cool. We went up to the bridge to get a close-up view of the retired banners and walked through the Bud Light district. I have never been before to both areas despite having been able to attend hundreds of games. It was a unique experience to watch my son run around all these areas without worrying about losing him in a crowd or him bumping into people,” Perlmutter said.

With only a limited number of fans allowed initially, The Garden had a small-town church vibe where everyone knows each other.

“It’s great to be back. It’s not how it used to be, but hopefully, it will again soon. I was with my good friend Elgin (Swift). I enjoyed it, and it was a time to catch up with some people. I saw some of the security guards, ushers, and team employees I haven’t seen in a while. I saw some fans I hadn’t seen in a while. Considering the situation, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t as hectic or as crazy as I may have thought. It was an extremely smooth night,” Donahue said.

Donahue enjoyed everything except the fact that the Knicks lost a close call to the Golden State Warriors.

“We didn’t play our best basketball, but I love our team. Of course, we’re not a championship team. But we’re a team that plays hard, plays defense, personifies our head coach Tom Thibodeau. It kinda makes fans feel a little nostalgic about the 90s team we love so much because of the type of defense they play,” Donahue said.

While a Knicks win could have been a perfect ending for Donahue’s emotional return to The Garden, he was appreciative of the experience and put things in proper perspective.

“I just didn’t want to lose the first game back. I’m a die-hard Knicks fan. I don’t even want to lose a preseason game. I’m definitely upset after the game as far as losing. I want that win so bad. But all in all, when I got home, I was thankful that I was back to The Garden, thankful that I got to see some of the New York fans’ faces. And just thankful to be alive, just thankful and cherish every moment that we have in this beautiful life,” Donahue said.

Two nights later, Donahue finally got to experience a Knicks victory in the new normal. The Knicks handily beat the lowly Sacramento Kings, 140-121, where The Garden was rocking the whole night.

The fans have found comfort in their beloved team under this COVID-19 pandemic. The Knicks have managed to thrive too under difficult circumstances.

Devoid of a superstar, the Knicks produced an All-Star in Julius Randle. They found a hidden gem in rookie Immanuel Quickley. Thibodeau has made the Knicks believe again.

A coach plucked from the Knicks’ storied past has transformed the league’s laughingstock into a bunch of overachievers with defense as its bedrock.

The Knicks are winning. New York basketball is back on the map.

This is the new normal for Donahue, Armstrong, Perlmutter, and all the Knicks fans.

The Garden comes alive in the new normal.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Royal Beating: Knicks pounce on Kings, move up to 5th spot

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 Quickley’s 25 points.

“That’s the great part about this team,” Quickley said. “Whoever’s night it is, we roll with them. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed each other’s success. That’s what makes this journey so special. This team is so special.”

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

New York Knicks: Calipari believes Rose is the ideal Quickley mentor

The New York Knicks have brought in Derrick Rose, not as a savior, but as a mentor.

Save for a dud against Orlando, and the ploy seems working for the Knicks.

The Rose effect has been felt immediately with the Knicks sneaking into the playoffs picture, winning three of their five games since the former MVP arrived via trade from Detroit. They currently sit at the seventh spot with a 14-16 record.

The trepidation among the Knicks fan base was quickly replaced with a warm reception.

Rose hasn’t taken away minutes from fan-favorite and their quickly rising rookie Immanuel Quickley. The Knicks are outscoring their opponents by 34 points in the 94 minutes Tom Thibodeau rolled a lineup with the Rose-Quickley tandem, per NBA.com.

It’s a small sample size, but it’s an encouraging sign.

Both players are quick and electric. They have a knack for explosive scoring since both were molded under the same legendary college coach.

Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari believes the Knicks have struck gold with his former players’ backcourt pairing.

“Both are terrific people and teammates,” Calipari told Empire Sports Media via zoom call on Friday. [Rose] would never take a picture unless his teammates are with him. He didn’t want the stuff by himself. Immanuel is the same way. All the good stuff he’s doing and how he’s playing, you listen, he’ll defer to his team. He’s an unbelievable teammate.”

Rose was a one-and-done prospect who blossomed into the NBA’s consensus No.1 pick under Calipari when he was still with the Memphis Tigers. Quickley, on the other hand, recently played for Calipari at Kentucky and won SEC Player of the Year honors before entering the NBA.

While there were ramblings about their fit before Rose’s second go-round with the Knicks, they were all washed away.

Quickley is averaging 14.0 points and 2.4 assists on 21.4 minutes since Rose’s arrival. Meanwhile, Rose has put up 11.2 points and 3.4 assists in 20.6 minutes for the Knicks this season.

“They’re different in that Immanuel was more of a shooting scorer. Both have great runners or floaters. Derrick wanted to pass first, at least when I got him. He passed first and then look to score. Immanuel is more of a scorer who can pass. They are different in that way. But I’m gonna tell you both — you know there’s not one time I don’t text or talk to them and say ‘I love you coach’. — [These] are great human beings. They’re great young men,” Calipari said.

Rose and Quickley’s near similar skillsets have allowed Thibodeau to keep their opponents second-guessing on defense as both guards can play well off and on the ball.

Thibodeau’s player development is anchored on accountability and playing with a winning mentality instead of wantonly letting his young guys play big minutes and learn on the fly.  He’s surrounded his young core with veterans who understands his demands.

There’s no doubt in Calipari’s mind that Rose will serve as the ideal mentor to Quickley.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks fall under Magic’s spell in tough loss

Terrence Ross outscored the entire New York Knicks‘ bench as the Orlando Magic rolled to a convincing 107-89 victory on Wednesday night.

Ross fired 18 of his season-high 30 points, presiding over Magic’s breakaway from a tight first half.

The Knicks shot 54 percent in the opening half and led by as many as 11 behind Julius Randle’s 17 points. But the Magic tightened their defense and started packing the paint.

“It was really the second quarter. Normally, our bench is a big plus for us, and we lost an 11-point quickly. We didn’t challenge shots the way we should have, and they got going,” Thibodeau said.

The spark Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley usually provided off the bench went missing. The duo typified the Knicks’ offensive woes, shooting a combined 2-for-22 from the field.

If there is one man in the NBA who can figure out Tom Thibodeau, it’s Magic’s coach Steve Clifford. Both coaches spent years together from the Knicks to the Houston Rockets as assistant coaches under Jeff Van Gundy.

Orlando outscored New York, 30-14, in the third quarter and turned a 53-56 halftime deficit into a 13-point lead.

Led by Ross, who was all over the court with six rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks, the Magic’s bench outscored their Knicks’ counterpart, 42-26.

The loss snapped the Knicks’ three-game winning streak and prevented them from reaching .500. They fell to 14-16 with six games left before the All-Star break.

The Knicks’ offense turned stagnant as they ran into a maze of errors and forced shots. The Magic’s defense held the Knicks to only 26 percent from the field and six assists in the second half.

Randle outplayed Nikola Vucevic in a battle of All-Star candidates but drew little help.

Vucevic got his usual double-double (16 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists) but only shot 8-for-24 from the field.

Randle picked up from where he left off and dropped 13 points in the opening quarter as the Knicks seized a 30-19 lead. Then the Magic zeroed in on him on defense.

Despite that, Randle still came away with 25 points on 11-of-19 field goals, seven rebounds, and three assists.

RJ Barrett and Elfrid Payton were the only other Knicks in double figures with 15 and 13 points, respectively. But they spent most of the fourth quarter on the bench.

“We’re such in a hole, and you want to find a way out. Those guys (second unit) started to make a run, and so that’s basically it,” Thibodeau explained.

A back-to-back three-pointer from Alec Burks brought the Knicks within 10.

But it proved to be their last gallant stand.

Ross, Evan Fournier, and Vucevic put the game away with a 7-0 answer.

The Knicks will have three days to recover.

Thibodeau will face his old team, Minnesota Timberwolves, for the first time since his unceremonious firing in 2019.

The Knicks, though, earned an extra day of rest after their Saturday matinee game against the San Antonio Spurs was postponed after four Spurs tested positive for COVID-19.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: One category Immanuel Quickley needs to improve in

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

When the New York Knicks selected Immanuel Quickley with the 25th overall pick, nobody expected him to be a revelation. Through 24 games, Quickley is averaging 12.4 points, 2.6 assists, and connecting on .412% of shots from the field per game. He’s also shooting .370 from three-pointer and has missed just four free throws this season.

Quickley has been an offensive weapon coming off the bench, as head coach Tom Thibodeau continues to start Elfrid Payton over the Kentucky product. At 21 years old, he’s just adapting to the NBA but has made significant strides forward in recent weeks. As he becomes more comfortable with how the game is played at the next level, the rookie is beginning to slow things down and improve his vision on the floor.

We could sit here all day and list the positives Quickley has brought to the team in just a short period of time, but he has weaknesses, and his comes on defense.

In an interview with the NY Post, former Knick Charlie Ward noted one thing Quickley will improve on with time on the floor:

“He’s definitely an offensive guy who can score the basketball,’’ Ward said of Quickley. “Our games are different. But you need late first-round picks that can play a role and be productive and potentially be a solid rotation player. Most times you look at high draft picks and put a lot of weight on them. But it’s all of them. Anyone who comes in the system, you’re trying to find the right fit. I think he fits a role.

“He’ll continue to develop as a defender. But he’s young still. He’s getting an opportunity to play, unlike myself, his first year. It’s a good opportunity for him to gain experience. And moving forward, he’ll continue to develop his offense but also continue to develop his defense.’’

How has Quickley looked on defense so far with the New York Knicks?

Quickley has an agile and bouncy nature to his play, but he doesn’t have the necessary strength and fundamentals on defense just yet. He still developing in that area, averaging 0.4 steals per game. You can see his anticipation and tamed-aggression growing each and every game, which is a positive sign, but there’s a reason Payton continues to start games.

Quickley is it a pesky defender, putting immediate pressure in full court situations after scoring. He sprints to his assignment, tantalizing them with energy and pointing out unmarked assignments off the ball. His communication with Thibodeau has been impressive between plays, and it shows he’s taking to coaching well. He also does a solid job calling out switches and pressing the perimeter. He lacks the strength to push through screens, but he’s so elusive he can sometimes bounce around them.

It will take time for Immanuel to elevate his game on defense, but the Knicks trading for Derrick Rose will help him develop even faster. A mentor and teacher like Rose will offer him a new perspective on how to play the game and one that has done it for quite some time. I have no doubt that Quickley will become one of the best players on the Knicks if he isn’t already, which is so exciting considering he’s only played 24 games in his young career.

 

Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley demanding ‘respect’ from some of the league’s best players

The New York Knicks are coming off two consecutive victories, with their latest, against the Houston Rockets 121-99. Thanks to stellar performances from Julius Randle and rookie Immanuel Quickley, New York has strung together a few impressive performances, dominating teams with bad defense and questionable offense.

Quickley finished the game with 22 points, shooting 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from three. He also connected on all four of his free throws and earned a +/- +17. The Kentucky product has continued to impress, and he has a new mentor teaching him the ropes in Derrick Rose. However, star Rockets PG John Wall had motivating things to say about Quickley, who played an altogether better game than his peer.

“He’s someone I respect,’’ Wall said of Quickley before the game. “I’m very happy for him to get the opportunity. I’m glad he’s showing people he’s more than just a shooter. That’s a lot of what people thought. The way he runs the point guard position has been good. It’s going to be good to go against him.”

Quickley has made significant leaps forward in his development, utilizing his vision on the court to spread the ball and a dangerous floating shot that mirrors Derrick Rose’s. Quickley responded to Wall’s comments with a sense of gratitude, as it becomes clear that he is just scratching the surface of his potential. With the right coaches and players around him, Quickley has the ability to be a premium point guard in the NBA, which would solve a problem the Knicks have dealt with for years.

“He told me I was having a good season, he told me to keep working,’’ Quickley said. “And just stay with it. It’s a long season but just keep getting better every day.’’

The New York Knicks move to acquire Rose paying off in dividends:

Parting ways with Dennis Smith Jr. became acceptable when Quickley entered the fold and immediately shot up the depth chart. What Rose is teaching Quickley is invaluable and will ultimately help him over the long term. This move by Tom Thibodeau and management could be their best this season, simply based on the fact that it’s helping their star rookie grow even faster.

“I’m learning a lot of stuff [from him],’’ Quickley said. “I don’t want to give it away because a lot of stuff I’m going to take with me throughout my career. So really just his energy. He’s a dog, an alpha dog, he’s a leader. It’s great to have somebody like that in my corner.’’

Knicks begin life without Mitchell Robinson with easy victory over Rockets

Nerlens Noel picked up the slack on defense while the 35-year old Taj Gibson turned back the clock and was spinning like he was 18.

Tom Thibodeau couldn’t ask for more as the New York Knicks’ collective effort enabled them to ace their first test without their starting center Mitchell Robinson.

On the day they learned that Robinson, who fractured his right hand, would be out for at least a month, the New York Knicks flaunted their depth in a huge 121-99 win against the Houston Rockets.

Their backup centers turned in inspired performances that more than filled up Robinson’s absence.

Noel collected 10 points, six boards, and two swats in his first start of the season, while Gibson added four points, including a beautiful spin drive to the basket off a Derrick Rose assist. He added five rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.

“They’re both great pros. You know they’re always ready whatever comes their way,” said Thibodeau praising his backup big men.

“Taj’s motor is an asset because it doesn’t need five minutes to warm up in the game. Once he’s in the game, he’s going. Nerlens is terrific in terms of the rim protection defensively, pick and roll defense and then putting pressure on the rim. And oftentimes, you didn’t see the value of that because it doesn’t show in the statistics of him going hard to the rim. But what it does is that it opens up shots for people. You can’t overlook that,” Thibodeau added.

Julius Randle was a steady presence in the starting unit as he came one rebound short of a double-double (22 points, nine rebounds, and two assists).

But it was the electric backcourt tandem of Rose and Immanuel Quickley once again who stepped on the gas.

Save for an anxious moment in the third quarter when the Rockets came within five, the Knicks threw a fun party at The Garden in the second night of a back-to-back.

The Knicks’ second unit quickly sucked the air out of the Rockets that kept them grounded.

Rose had another impactful role off the bench with 16 points and three assists while Quickley hit four triples en route to his fifth 20-point performance in his young career. Quickley, the 25th pick of the Draft, tied Randle with 22 points while the Knicks’ lottery pick Obi Toppin scored 11 and put on the exclamation point with a vicious alley-oop dunk off a Kevin Knox lob pass.

Eric Gordon and John Wall combined for 50 points for the Rockets, who were missing Victor Oladipo and Christian Wood. They got little help from the rest of the team.

The Knicks’ second unit, led by the Rose-Quickley tandem, outscored their Rockets’ counterpart, 58-30.

“The balance of our team (was the difference). Our bench has given us a big lift. You need that in a game like this. Like tonight, we’re on a back-to-back, and they were waiting for us. I thought our energy was terrific,” Thibodeau said.

It was their second straight blowout win as they continue their steady climb in the standings. Their 13th win in 28 games has enabled them to move up to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

The Knicks hope to sustain their winning form when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks suffer another Heat-breaker on Derrick Rose’s debut

Derrick Rose has hit seven game-winners in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime throughout his NBA career.

But on Rose’s first game back as a Knick, Tom Thibodeau chose not to put him in a tight spot.

Instead, Thibodeau went to his youngest player for the last shot.

The 20-year old RJ Barrett missed on a last-second drive as the Miami Heat survived with another gut-wrenching win, 98-96, over the New York Knicks Tuesday night.

“He just got here. So we’re still working our way through things,” Thibodeau said, referring to Rose. “I just felt we needed people who know what we’re doing. I didn’t want to put him in a situation like that.”

With the Knicks’ best closer on the bench, the Heat pounced on the opportunity to hammer out their second straight close win against the Knicks in three days.

Tyler Herro drained a clutch triple while Jimmy Butler hit a split at the line that spoiled the third reunion of his former Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves coach and teammate.

But despite the loss, Rose showed plenty of promise even without the benefit of practice with his new teammates.

He relied on his familiarity with Thibodeau’s schemes and played with his instincts.

For a good stretch, Rose showed flashes of his former elite form that made him the league’s youngest MVP 10 years ago.

The 32-year old Rose, along with rookie sensation Immanuel Quickley, came off the bench with 3:27 left in the first quarter.

Rose quickly made an impact as the Knicks turned a seven-point deficit, 17-24, into a 42-30 lead, bridging the first two quarters.

Rose had 10 first-half points and three assists in under 11 minutes.

But the Heat hit 11 threes in the first half that enabled them to recover and led by two at the break, 57-55.

Elfrid Payton, perhaps feeling the heat with Rose’s arrival, had a strong start with 12 points and three assists in the opening half.

The Knicks would grab another 10-point lead in the second half. But the Heat thrived on the free throw line then made their shots when it mattered to pull off the come-from-behind win.

Miami sank 32 of 39 foul shots while New York only had a total of 16 free throws. Butler and Bam Adebayo combined to shoot 26 of 31 at the stripes for the Heat.

Payton led the Knicks with 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Rose finished with 14 points in 20 minutes. He left the game for good with 4:51 left and the tightly-fought match tied at 88-all.

Julius Randle was out-of-sync, bleeding for 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting. His late-game blunder was costly.

After Quickley answered Herro’s triple with a floater to cut the Heat’s lead to one, 97-96, the Knicks had several chances to steal the game.

Reggie Bullock grabbed a Kelly Olynyk miss with 22.6 seconds that set up a bizarre ending for the Knicks.

Instead of milking the clock for the last shot, Randle opted for a tough fadeaway with still 10.2 seconds left.

Butler did an excellent acting job to sell a foul in the mad scramble for the ball. But he could only hit a split off his free throws that gave the Knicks one more shot in the final 6.2 seconds.

Barrett wound up with 13 points, six rebounds, two assists, and a big endgame lesson that Thibodeau hoped would toughen him up.

Rose could have written a perfect ending to his fairy tale return to the Knicks, but Thibodeau held him back.

Not tonight.

Perhaps Thibodeau is reserving those Rose’s clutch shots when the stakes will be higher.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo