WASHINGTON — Obi Toppin, with his name being chanted nearly the entire game in the nation’s capital, scored a career-high 35 points as the Knicks bounced back from a 10-0 hole to rout the Wizards, 114-92, at Capital One Arena on Friday night.
The Knicks moved to 36-45 with one game left in their season, but the bigger news of the night could be a knee sprain suffered by RJ Barrett, who will undergo further tests Saturday in New York.
Toppin shot 14-for-22 from the field and was 6-for-9 from 3-point range. He received a standing ovation and even more “O-bi” chants as he checked out of the game with 57 seconds left.
“We have great fans, probably the best fans in the world,” Toppin said. “To have them travel and chant not just my name but others, it’s a great feeling.”
The former Dayton lottery pick has progressed noticeably from 3-point range in the last few weeks — which had been a major weakness in his game.
“I just feel like it’s mainly confidence — that’s the biggest thing,” Toppin said. “I’m playing with a different kind of confidence now. That’s one thing I’m really working on when I’m in the gym. I’m working on a lot of things, but 3-pointer opens a lot more for me. If I can’t shoot a 3, they’re not going to close out, and it’s easy defense for them.”
Toppin finished with 18 first-half points after completing a four-point play with nine-tenths of a second left. He drained a left wing 3-pointer and was tripped up for the foul.
His previous career high was 20 points — set twice last week. Toppin has started at power forward since Julius Randle shut it down for the season last week.
“We’ll take [the six 3s],” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He spends a lot of time on it. He’s got great touch. The thing he does better than anything is he runs the floor. But running the floor, he gets easy sneakers and gets everyone playing fast. He doesn’t stop moving. His confidence is coming from the work he put in.”
Immanuel Quickley, who is from the outskirts of Baltimore, added 23 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in the rout and found Toppin all night. He fed him for an alley-oop dunk, a long pass for a breakaway slam and a kick-out for a corner 3.
Toppin and Quickley are the Knicks’ two first-round picks from the 2020 draft.
“They do have great chemistry,” Thibodeau said. “They’ve spent a lot of time working together.”
Going into next season, if they don’t make a trade, the Knicks will have to figure out a way for Toppin and Julius Randle, both power forwards, to coexist. The only solution is Randle playing the 5 in a small-ball alignment. Randle was shut down for the season last week.
“It’s something we have taken a look at,” Thibodeau said. “It has to happen in practice. It has to translate into something. I like having the component of downsize. But what we lose is our defence. Once you do that, you’re committing to outscoring somebody.
After the Knicks fell into a 10-0 hole, Thibodeau called for a timeout. The Wizards had hit their first four shots and the Knicks missed their first six.
“They knew,” Thibodeau said. “We started and we were lethargic. We just wanted to stop the bleeding and came out and got our energy going. I loved how we passed the ball.”