Obi Shines As Knicks Crush Indiana in Pre-Season Game 2; 131-114

Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle did damage early and Obi Toppin took over late as the Knicks crushed the Indiana Pacers 131-114 in preseason game #2, on a Friday night at the Garden.

Toppin put on an aerial slam dunk show, was hitting 3 after 3, and playing good D — intercepting passes to set up some of his dunks. He had the Garden crowd chanting “OBI OBI OBI”. And then would come another dunk.

“He’s a fun player, man,” said RJ Barrett about Obi. “That’s one guy you come to watch. He’s really fun out there. I still don’t understand how he gets those little leak-out dunks every second. He really does run the floor. And he’s making his shots now. Going into year 3 he looks so much more poised; he’s really been working at his game. I’m happy for him.”

NY was leading 131-106 before Indiana scored the last 8 pts of the game. The Knicks jumped out to a 20-point lead in the 2nd quarter, before an Indiana comeback pulled them to within 8 points in the middle of the 3rd. But then the Knick reserves — led by Immanuel Quickley with Obi the spearhead — pushed the lead back to 20+.

Key takeaways:

1. Toppin Terrific

Julius Randle played well early; Toppin took over late. It was a continuation of his play that lit up the Knicks at the end of last season.

Toppin filled the Garden with energy, highlighted by this play where he partially intercepted a pass, resulting in a Knicks steal and his ahead-of-the-field highlight dunk that lit up NBA twitter for the evening.

Toppin was banging home 3’s with nothing but net — an important part of his game that he has been working on.

“OBI OBI OBI” chanted the Garden crowd and then minutes later — another Knick steal and Toppin with Another highlight SLAM.

“It’s also his personality,” said coach Tom Thibodeau about Obi. “He brings life into everything. We walks into the building and there’s a bounce to him. He energizes the team; you can feed off of that. Everything is fast with him. If he’s the trail big, taking it to the backside real fast; there’s no hesitation. And guys like playing like that. They like when there’s not an overhandle; he’s real quick at getting the ball to the backside.”

Toppin started the last 5 games of the year last season after Julius Randle had a blow up at the end of a game against Charlotte, and then came down with a mysterious leg injury. Toppin shined — electrifying the Knicks with his play that culminated in 35-and 42-point games to end the season.

Some dismissed Toppin’s play as coming in meaningless games. But some were meaningful to the other team. Toppin had:

2. McBride Looked Great

Miles McBride played tremendous defense and looked very comfortable on the court offensively. He is coming into his own. He is quick — and was able to stay in front of TJ McConnell all night, preventing him from getting into the lane.

“Deuce is just tough,” said Thibodeau afterwards. “And every team needs toughness.”

McBride was 2-3 from 3, finishing with 6 points and a +16 in 21 minutes.

3. Brunson a Difference Maker

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks to a huge lead into the 2nd quarter. He was everything NY has been hoping for — the missing piece. The engine. A clever point guard and leader.

“His dexterity is mesmerizing” said Walt Frazier about Brunson as he made a stutterstep drive AND 1 continuation in the 2nd quarter.

4. RJ Dominated Early

RJ Barrett was the best player on the court early — scoring efficiently, hitting 3’s, and carrying the Knicks to a double-digit lead. He finished 6-15 from the floor (4-7 from 3 2-2 in free throws) for 18 pts and a +15 in 27 minutes.

5. Randle Looked Refreshed

Julius Randle played great. He was an all-star force on offense — scoring inside against double teams.

6. Reddish So So

Cam Reddish started at small forward, and did not show much. He did make one spectacular drive — his only points as he went 1-7 (0-2 from 3).

7. Knicks Look Like 50-Win Team

The Knicks have crushed Detroit and Indiana so far in the preseason.

  • Jalen Brunson looks like he will be a huge difference maker with these Knicks; a true point guard and leader who is in his prime.
  • Derrick Rose is back healthy; he comes off the bench.
  • Quickley looks a year better and more confident.

Three leaders to lead.

The front court looks awesome:

  • Mitchell Robinson is a year better, looks stronger (worked out all off season), and signed long term now.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein looks like a great pickup.
  • Randle looks refreshed. Still an all-star caliber player who can score inside against double teams — something Toppin is still learning.
  • Jericho Sims is tough

And then at scoring guard:

  • RJ Barrett looks great — a year older and better and still only 21 years old.

Quentin Grimes and Evan Fournier did not play in this game — but they will be there for scoring (and defense in Grimes’ case).

NY had a 41-31 team the first year under Tom Thibodeau, then fell back to 37-45 last year — mainly due to the injury to Rose, and now look poised to take another step forward.

The Boxscore

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