Knicks’ 2nd Team Spectacular — 5 Reasons Why NY 121 Houston 99

It was another day, another easy win for the Knicks with the second unit turning on the jets late in the 3rd quarter to make a single-digit Knick lead a blowout. This was the second Knick game in 24 hours — a back-to-back, and they have lost Mitchell Robinson to the hand injury. But NY didn’t look tired as their defense made Houston look discombobulated at times, resulting in yet another team held to under 100 points.

Here are 5 take aways:

1. The 2nd Team

This was almost an identical game to the night before versus Washington, where the Knicks had a sizeable 1st-half lead, which dwindled to 4 or 5 points late in the 3rd quarter, but then the 2nd team came in and made it a blowout.

In this one, NY had a 16-point lead at the half, but in the 3rd quarter, Houston had new life — and started playing very tough defense themselves under new head coach Stephen Silas (son of NBA great Paul Silas, and former Knick ball boy, who has spent years in NBA as an assistant coach before getting the Houston job). John Wall got in a groove and he and Eric Gordon led Houston back to within 5 points, 79-74, before an Alec Burks steal of a Wall pass and ensuing dunk by Nerlens Noel pushed the NY lead to 7 with 2:15 left in the quarter.

Then the Knicks 2nd team came in and it was blowout city. Immanuel Quickley hit the first three 3’s he took, and Derrick Rose orchestrated the charge.

Rose scored 16 points, besting the 14 points he had scored several times previously in the few games he’s been with the team — on 5-11 (1-3 from 3) shooting, 3 assists, and a +18 in 23 minutes.

Quickley had 22 points in 21 minutes on 7-9 (4-6 from 3, 4-4 in free throws) shooting and a +17.

Everybody on the 2nd team had a huge +/-, even Alec Burks who had another bad shooting night — his second in a row — with 1-7 shooting (1-5 from 3) for 3 points but 4 rebounds, good defense and a +19.

2. Starters Played Well Although 2nd Team Ate Their Minutes

Elfrid Payton and the starters played well, jumping out to a 6-pt lead in the 1st quarter. Although PS: the 2nd team turned it into a 14-pt lead midway thru the 2nd quarter.

Payton had 15 pts (on 7-11 shooting, 1-1 from 3), 3 assists, and a steal in 22 minutes; a +1.

Payton also played excellent defense on John Wall in the 1st half — making Walt Frazier comment that Wall had been dancing around the perimeter all evening but going nowhere, not able to penetrate, nor get his teammates involved.

Wall finished with 26 pts on 9-20 shooting. He left with 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and by the time he returned with 6 minutes left in the game, NY’s 2nd team had established a 17-pt lead and the blowout. Wall played only 2 more minutes and was pulled during the garbage time.

Julius Randle had his usual all-star performance — at times playing with the 2nd team as he’s usually the last starter to be replaced. He had 22 pts, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists on excellent shooting (7-15 overall, 1-2 from 3, 7-8 in free throws) in 33 minutes. Note that the brilliance of the 2nd team is allowing Julius to no longer need to play over 40 minutes a night.

Rose and Quickley played so well together, with Burks on the 2nd unit, that it ate into the playing time of RJ Barrett — who had another game where he got off to a slow shooting start — and in this one didn’t get the opportunity to take more shots later in the game to put points on the board. He finished with only 7 points on 2-8 shooting (0-1 from 3, 3-4 in free throws which is good) — although his overall game wasn’t affected: 4 rebounds and 5 assists in 22 minutes; a +1.

Reggie Bullock played his usual unheralded strong game defensively and lit the place up early with 3’s — he was 3-5 (all from 3) for 9 pts in 25 min.

3. Noel and Gibson Subbing Robinson Well

Nerlins Noel stepped into Mitchell Robinson‘s big shoes at center, and was splendid. Noel plays the same kind of game as Robinson — defense, shot blocking, and inside scoring. It was Noel’s first start of the regular season (he started two pre-season games) and he was 5-6 for 10 pts, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 32 minutes.

Getting Noel in the off-season to play 22+ minutes a game as Robinson’s backup was a stroke of brilliance by the front office. When Robinson was playing, the Knicks were never without a shot blocker/interior defender on the court, and now with Robinson out, at least they have Noel, with Taj Gibson backing him (another excellent, and timely, pickup, two weeks ago).

Gibson doesn’t block shots, but he plays interior defense. He got 16 minutes at backup center on the 2nd team, and was 2-3 for 4 pts, 5 rebounds, and immeasurable defense.

4. Toppin Shines; Knox Gets Daylight

And the good news kept on coming. It was another fabulous coming-out night for Obi Toppin, with an array of slam dunks — one was especially spectacular — good passes, good defense, terrific post-up moves, and a 3-pointer that was nothing but net. He had 11 pts (on 5-9 overall, 1-4 from 3) and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes; a +16.

Kevin Knox got some play as Thibs mentioned he might with Robinson’s injury: 4 minutes and was 1-1 for 2 pts (a steal and a slam) with an assists — the alley-oop pass to Toppin that resulted in his spectacular dunk.

5. The Defense

And of course the Knicks won because of their tough Defense all night — the calling card of Tom Thibodeau-coached teams. NY is now 13-15 and moving up.

The Boxscore

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