Knicks notes from Wednesday’s win over Cavs, including Immanuel Quickley’s push for a rotation spot

Immanuel Quickley pushes ball up floor

A few notes from the Knicks’ win over the Cavs on Wednesday:

The Knicks have plenty of guards competing for a spot in Tom Thibodeau’s rotation. Immanuel Quickley made a strong case for himself on Wednesday.

The rookie helped New York come from behind in the second half to beat the Cavs on Wednesday. The Knicks outscored the Cavs by 19 in Quickley’s 25 minutes. He had nine points and seven assists, defending and making plays in his first NBA game at Madison Square Garden.

“We got going off our defense and I thought Quick was terrific,” Tom Thibodeau said. “(His) ball pressure, the fact that he can shoot the way he can, it opens up the floor.”

Quickley played 10 minutes in New York’s first two preseason games, playing behind the big group of guards vying for minutes. Frank Ntilikina was unavailable on Wednesday due to a sore Achilles. The injury may have opened up an opportunity for Quickley – and he took advantage.

“I don’t know whether he’s a point guard or shooting guard. But he’s a guard,” Thibodeau said when asked about Quickley’s position. “He’s very smart and he’s tough. I think you can put the ball in his hands. He can run the offense, he can play off the ball. And that’s what makes him hard to guard. You’re going to have to guard him off the dribble and you’re going to have to guard him off catch and shoot as well. He’s getting better and better. Very productive.”

Quickley played off the ball at Kentucky last season but had played point guard for much of his amateur career. He can play off the ball in the NBA because of his shooting. But Quickley, 6-3, made it clear that he feels comfortable with the ball in his hands when he was asked about playing point guard during his post-game interview on Wednesday.

“Coming in, I was trying to tell all the NBA teams that I’m somebody who just happened to play off the ball at Kentucky that one year, my sophomore year,” Quickley said. “I can really do both (play on and off the ball).”

Story continues

It’s unclear where Quickley fits into Thibodeau’s rotations. But the coach seems to have confidence the 21-year-old. Quickley, taken 25th overall by New York in the 2020 NBA Draft, will likely be competing with Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr., Ntilikina and RJ Barrett for minutes in New York’s backcourt.

On Wednesday, Quickley was the lead guard in a lineup that included Barrett, Kevin Knox, Obi Toppin and Mitchell Robinson. That lineup helped spark New York in the fourth quarter, when the club went on a decisive 19-2 run against a Cavs team that was playing its reserves.

Mitch effective despite foul trouble

Robinson started at center on Wednesday. It was his first start of the preseason. In New York’s first two games, Robinson came off the bench behind Nerlens Noel. On Wednesday, Robinson picked up two early fouls in the first quarter and third quarter. He was able to have an impact in the second half while playing through foul trouble. The third-year center finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and impacted the game during New York’s strong fourth quarter.

“I like the fact that he was able to play 32 minutes (but) we’ve got to eliminate the ticky tack fouls,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a hard guy to score over. Great rim protector. I think as he continues to understand the position and grow, he’s been doing a great job in practice. I think he’ll get better and better. Sky’s the limit for him.”

Before the game, Thibodeau said Robinson continues to work on shooting from the perimeter in practice. Thibodeau believes Robinson is making progress toward being able to implement his shooting in a game.

“What he’s doing right now is preparing to do it – he’s coming early, working on it at practice, staying late. He’s come back in the evenings,” the coach said. “…. I think his touch around the basket is improving right now. I think it’s a feel and there’ll be a progression to it. But if he continues to work he has been working, he will improve. And get comfortable with it.”

Knox, DSJ make impact

Thibodeau credit Kevin Knox for strong play in the second half. Knox had 16 points, four rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. He hit three of his five 3-point attempts. Thibodeau also commended Dennis Smith Jr. for helping spur the Knicks on defense. Smith Jr. had five steals, four assists and was credited with two blocked shots. He was inconsistent on the other end of the floor, but Thibodeau seemed pleased with Smith Jr.’s performance on defense.

“I thought Dennis got us going with some good pressure,” the coach said.

Earlier Wednesday, Smith Jr. said he’d benefitted from working with associate head coach Johnnie Bryant.

“He just got a wealth of knowledge, on both ends,” Smith said of Bryant. “He just understands the game so well and he studies it so much. It’s little things that he’ll show me and I’m just like, I can’t help but smile because I’ve never thought of it like that.

“I’m like a sponge, I listen to everything he’s saying and I try to put it into the game and be effective with what I’m learning. I’m appreciative, man, he’s always willing to give out game so I listen as much as I can.”

RJ playmaking

Here’s Thibodeau on something he and the coaches have worked with Barrett on: “Something we’re really emphasizing with him – he’s great at getting into the paint and then to make the rim read. When you get to the rim, how many guys are on you? If there are 2-3 guys on you, make the play. Just make the right read and make the game easy for everyone.”

When asked about it on Wednesday, Thibodeau said he believes Barrett can be a play-maker at the NBA level.

“I think what you’re seeing now is you’re seeing a lot of wings on the floor. It’s usually a point guard, a two, a three and a four – and all those positions are really interchangeable,” Thibodeau said. “And in some cases, all five guys are interchangeable – where it’s positionless. And we’re seeing Julius (Randle) make plays off the dribble. And I do think RJ can make plays.”

Randle had three assists on Wednesday and totaled 11 assists in New York’s first two preseason games…. Thibodeau said coaches had been debating about the best time to look at Reggie Bullock in the starting lineup. Alec Burks was out Wednesday due to personal reasons, so Bullock started in his place.

Published: 2020-12-17 06:18:58

Tags: #Knicks #notes #Wednesdays #win #Cavs #including #Immanuel #Quickleys #push #rotation #spot

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