Obi Fantastic But Knicks Can’t Close. Orlando 104 NY 98

Once again the Knicks starters fell behind in the 3rd quarter, the reserves came in with tremendous energy and defense to take the lead in the 4th, but NY couldn’t close out. The Knicks had grabbed all momentum to take a 92-86 lead with 5:45 left in the game — but missed all 3-pointers down the stretch, turned the ball over, and got run over by Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, and the Magic.

Orlando beat the Knicks for the 2nd time this year — improving to 4-11. The Knicks fell to 8-7.

1. Toppin Terrific

The headline good news for the Knicks was Obi Toppin who was tremendous again — playing with energy and lethal efficiency. He was all over the place on offense and defense — tipping shots, intercepting passes, blocking shots, hitting 3’s, and slamming the ball on alley-oop passes.

Toppin finished with 14 points on 6-9 shooting (2-3 from 3), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block in only 18 minutes for a +11.

The Knicks were down 10 with 2 minutes left in the 3rd before the second team made its charge. Derrick Rose began that charge with consecutive 3’s late in the 3rd. Toppin hit a 3 with 8:47 left in the 4th to pull NY to within 82-79. Toppin acrobatically grabbed a Quickley pass with his left hand and put it in the next time down made it 84-81.

After Barrett scored to make it 84-83, Toppin blocked a Cole Anthony 3 which was followed by an Alec Burks 3 to give NY an 86-84 lead.

Toppin then hit a 3 to give NY an 89-84 lead with 6:34 left and Madison Square Garden was ROCKING, chanting OBI, OBI, OBI!

2. Burks Big

Alec Burks dominated at the start of the 4th quarter — with his poor-man’s-Kobe Bryant game — playing point, slicing to the lane and distributing, hitting 3’s from everywhere and playing great D.

3. Quickley Energy

Immanuel Quickly played another inspirational game — up-tempo, attacking, hitting 3’s, and playing really good defense — getting into everyone’s pants.

4. Barrett Strong But 0-7 from 3

RJ Barrett made BIG buckets down the stretch — driving to the basket from the left or right. But he was a culprit missing 3’s down the stretch. He finished 0-7 from 3 which hurt, but 7-12 from everywhere else and great D.  Overall Barrett had 17 points on 7-19 shooting, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and a -2.

5. Robinson Played Strong

Mitchell Robinson played well throughout — playing a strong interior defense, getting offensive rebounds and putbacks or slams. He went out late in the 4th after diving on the floor to grab a loose ball, passing it back out.

6. Randle & Fournier Look On

Julius Randle for the most part seemed out of sorts on the evening — just missed getting rebounds on several plays where Fritz Wagner grabbed the ball instead for an offensive rebound and score. Randle had a -21 with 13 points on 4-11 shooting (4-10 from 3) and only 5 rebounds in 32 minutes.

Evan Fournier didn’t play in the 4th. Whenever he came into the game, Terrence Ross (19 points) immediately went off due to Fournier’s defense.

7. End Game

The Knicks were up 94-91 with 4:27 left after a Mitchell Robinson inside bucket — but a bad pass by Quickley led to a Terrence Ross breakaway dunk and Orlando 95-94 lead with 2:56 left.

The Knicks were up 96-95 after a clutch RJ Barrett drive with 1:54 left. But then Alec Burks missed a 3, RJ Barrett missed a 3, and a Rose bad-pass turnover leading to a score put NY down 102-96. A Barrett dunk off a Rose pass made it 102-98 with 22 seconds left and Orlando (Cole Anthony specifically) made their free throws for the old ballgame.

“Turnovers usually fall into 2 categories,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “Usually it’s either from too much 1-on-1 or a risky pass. You have to ask yourself. Noone’s going to be perfect. You shouldn’t repeat it over and over. If you make a mistake you should learn from it.”

The Boxscore


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