The Knicks’ west-coast swing has hit a speed bump, dropping two-straight to the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers following an impressive win last week over Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
A team that has still pleasantly surprised over its first 18 games with an 8-10 record, there clearly has been progress to the work set forth by first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Amongst it all has come the obvious realization that Immanuel Quickley is the franchise’s starting point guard of the future.
The No. 25 pick out of Kentucky — who is already the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft — throttled the Knicks back into contention on Sunday night, nearly overturning a 25-point third-quarter deficit.
Quickley scored 21 of his career-high 31 points in the fourth quarter all while shooting 9-of-18 from the floor and 5-of-8 from three-point range.
Such offensive affluence, especially from the field, is a welcome sight for a Knicks team that has struggled to spread the floor with competent shooting.
New York ranks 25th in field-goal percentage and 23rd in three-point percentage this season. Even the slightest shooting improvement would make the Knicks a team no one wants to deal with considering they have the best defense in the league.
It’s why Quickley’s outing on Sunday night was so promising.
“It’s impressive and, again, I think his shotmaking is a huge asset for our team,” Thibodeau said. “That’s something that we needed, is shooting, and it’ll open up the floor for us. But his all-around play gets better with each outing. He gets pressure on people. And defensively, he’s learning. And as time goes on, he’ll get better and better at it.”
Even more impressive is that Quickley was running circles around a Blazers team that had the last week off due to COVID protocols, all while preparing for a Knicks team that was playing its third game in four nights.
He was even getting under the skin of Blazers star point guard, Damian Lillard, who complained that Quickley’s drawn foul behind the three-point line should have been a two-shot foul.
“It was a little back and forth,’’ Quickley said of his interaction with Lillard. “He’s one of my favorite players. To be able to conversate with him back and forth, it’s pretty cool.’’
If he keeps showing out as he did on Monday, Quickley will soon be in the conversation with some of his favorite players rather than just having them.
He and the Knicks are back in action on Tuesday night in Utah against the Jazz.