Immanuel Quickley smashes through funk just in time for Knicks

Immanuel Quickley smashed through the rookie wall and bought time for the Knicks’ stars to stop laying bricks.

After failing to score more than six points in four of his previous five games while his playing time was reduced, Quickley scored 20 on Friday and resembled the NBA Rookie of the Year candidate he had been early in the season. He teamed with Derrick Rose and Alec Burks to form a Bench Big Three who combined for 58 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in a 133-129 overtime victory over the Grizzlies at the Garden.

“In a playoff push,” backup center Taj Gibson said, “we’re going to need everybody.”

The root of Quickley’s downturn was unknown: One bad stretch of shooting 29.6 percent over a long season? Struggling to find ways to contribute behind veteran point guard Elfrid Payton? Or crashing into the dreaded rookie wall? Coming out of a stunning comeback win in which Quickley shot 7-of-12 — including 4-of-6 from 3-point range — for 20 points, the answer is a sigh of relief.

Knicks
Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley
NBAE via Getty Images

“I never mind him taking shots,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That’s his strength. I know over the course of the season, if he is taking those shots, he is going to make most of them.”

Earlier in the day, Thibodeau said Quickley’s “floater is great” and called him a “terrific 3-point shooter.”

Rose scored 13 in the first half when Payton landed in early foul trouble. Burks scored nine in overtime and assisted on Quickley’s go-ahead 3. And Quickley, who ran the point throughout crunch time, provided a couple of flurries: Seven points in the second quarter, plus two 3s and an alley-oop pass to Obi Toppin after fighting to corral an offensive rebound in the final two minutes of the third quarter.

Thibodeau kept three reserves on the court in crunch time with RJ Barrett and Julius Randle, both of whom came alive in the fourth quarter.

“Most of the game I’m struggling. RJ is struggling,” Randle said. “For the first half, Derrick kept us in the game with his scoring and setting the pace. Down the stretch, RJ made huge plays, Quick made huge plays, Alec made huge plays.”

The win ended the Knicks’ worst stretch since a five-game skid in January — the tail end of which coincided with Quickley’s role expanding to provide a spark. Maybe history is about to repeat.

“The second time that we play a team I feel like they definitely make adjustments, especially on my floater and different things like that — pick and roll play,” Quickley said before the game. “So I’m just trying to get better each and every day not only on the floor but with film, trying to adjust my game to become a smarter student of the game.”

Quickley is approaching the career-high 990 minutes he logged at as a sophomore at Kentucky last season. Surpassing a previous season high is usually the point at which most rookies slow down, but he played 31 minutes against the Grizzlies for his most since March 15. He averaged 19.3 minutes over his last 11 games.

“For the rookie wall, I don’t really feel it,” Quickley said. “I’m just going to continue to do whatever’s got me here. There’s going to be ups and downs throughout a season, ups and downs throughout a game. But you just want to continue to do what’s got you to the place you’ve been. I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself.”

source: nypost.com