ORLANDO, Fla. — Immanuel Quickley’s 10th rebound came with 3:32 left, the Knicks up 28 points, and the fans inside Amway Center already hoarse from their Obi Toppin, RJ Barrett and “Let’s Go Knicks” chants.
It was the cherry on top of a perfect Sunday for the Knicks at Garden South as Quickley’s first career triple-double highlighted a 118-88 drubbing of the woeful Magic.
Quickley finished with 20 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds and continued to solidify the notion he’s going to have to play point guard next season.
“I thought he gave us a great lift,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It was more how he got the ball moving for us. I think we had 29 assists and he made a lot of good plays. His shot sets things up. But I thought he made a conscious effort to get the ball moving side to side. And anytime you get the guard rebounding like that, that allows you to get out into the open floor and run. I want him to continue to do that.
Asked if he ever got a triple-double at Kentucky, Quickley cracked, “I didn’t pass enough to get a triple-double at Kentucky.”
But he predicted two weeks ago to the training staff this night was coming.
“I told our training staff, I said, I think I can get a triple-double,” Quickley said. “They were like, ‘No, you can’t get that.’ But just watching film, seeing how teams play, things like that. Just being able to make reads and get assists and then just crashing the glass, trying to do the things that help win and that comes with it.”
This wire-to-wire route wasn’t just about Quickley. Barrett and center Mitchell Robinson wanted to rectify their lax performances Saturday in the blowout loss to Cleveland. And they reversed their fortunes with big games.
Indeed, it was a perfect storm with Toppin and Quickley, their 2020 first-round picks, trying to enter the offseason with hope after this failed season.
“The young guys are playing well,” Barrett said. “It’s fun to be part of. Moving the ball, playing defense, playing hard and together. We’re a very good team. Earlier in the year we let a couple slip away. We know we’re better than what our record has shown this year.”
It was a giddy night in downtown Orlando. With the fans chanting “O-bi” in the fourth quarter as the Knicks mounted a 30-point-plus lead, Toppin tied his career-high set Saturday by pouring in 20 points with eight rebounds and was a plus-46.
Toppin scored on the fast break with nifty dunks but also showed his improving 3-point shot by draining 4 of 10. Julius Randle has shut it down for the season since the playoff elimination and Toppin has three more games to show Knicks brass that perhaps they can move on without their veteran power forward.
“He’s really energetic,” Barrett said. “He’s getting a chance to show and prove who he is. I feel like he’s a really good player and can do it on a nightly basis. I don’t think anyone in our camp is surprised. We’ve seen Obi work his butt off. I’m happy he’s able to show the world.
After his 4-for-18 nightmare against Cleveland, Barrett scored 27 points with six assists, shooting a healthy 9 of 20 from the field. Robinson added 12 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three steals, playing with a frenzy against fellow free-agent-to-be Mo Bamba.
And the transplanted New Yorkers savored it all, cheering and chanting inside Amway Center.
“That’s the special thing about the Knicks,” Thibodeau said. “There’s fans all over the country, especially here in Florida — Miami, Orlando. Atlanta is the same thing. It’s special when you have that type of following. It’s great support for our players, great for our organization and we want to give them something to be proud of.”
Quickley has been arguably their most efficient player since the All-Star break as the Knicks try to figure out their point guard woes after Kemba Walker quit the team and Derrick Rose broke down in December.
Before the game, Thibodeau talked about Quickley needing to be a more vocal leader as a floor general and “to understand the details of every play. Don’t just run the play, you got to execute the play. It’s a big difference.”
It looked like he is on his way after his rookie season was spent off the ball.
“I’m a basketball player,” Quickley said. “I’ve been trying to tell everybody that. I can handle the ball, pass the ball, shoot the ball, help my teammates get shots, help myself get shots. So that’s what I view myself as, a basketball player.
The Knicks led by 32 points after three quarters and though the Magic (20-59) were shorthanded, it’s hard to believe the Knicks lost two games to Orlando at the Garden.
“This helps build momentum, trying to finish out the season strong and carry that momentum into next year,” Barrett said.