The New York Knicks were down 18 in the second half and struggling to shoot the Cleveland Cavaliers out of their zone defense. Then, Coach Tom Thibodeau sent Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton to the bench and played the kids the rest of the way to a come from behind win.
Did you know that not only does Andre Drummond played for the Cavs but Thon Maker does too! I sure didn’t before tip-off. It also turns out that when Andre Drummond plays against Mitchell Robinson he transforms in Hakeem Olajuwon. Robinson recorded two fouls in less than three minutes against former Piston and ended up on the bench. This put the Knicks in a horrific situation with Nerlens Noel out with a left knee injury. Drummond dominated the smaller New York lineup to the tune of 18 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists over 21 minutes.
It wasn’t just Robinson afflicted with the Hacking and Whacking in the first quarter. New York had five fouls in the first four minutes of the game. The foul trouble led to the first minutes in the orange and blue for Omari Spellman. The former Villanova Wildcat spent last season in Golden State before being sent to the Garden in the Ed Davis trade. Spellman went 0-2 in five minutes and ended with a -3 in the +/- column. Yikes.
The Knicks struggled defensively in the first half. Cleveland went 8-15 from beyond the arc while being led by the likes of D(ean) Wade, Isaac Okoro, and Darius Garland. Despite the hot shooting start from distance the Cavs only went into the halftime locker room up four.
For the first time in three preseason games, Thibs and New York came out of the break struggling. Cleveland started the second half in a zone defense. A move that the offense has yet to make any team pay for across the preseason slate. The starters, led by Randle and Payton scored a measly 13 points in the frame. The lead ballooned up to as many as 18 points.
In the fourth, Coach Tom Thibodeau looked deep within the prayers of the Knicks Twitter faithful and played the kids. Obi Toppin spent most of the fourth quarter as the oldest player on the floor. Alongside fellow rookie Immanuel Quickley, Kevin Knox, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson the Knicks ran down Cleveland and held the Cavs to their own 13 point quarter to close out a win in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
The average age of this lineup? Just 21 years old.
Quickley plays fast and distributes the ball across the offense unlike any other point guard currently active on the roster. Last night, although he shot poorly from the floor, IQ ended the game with a team high +19. Kevin Knox, after a rough start to the game came alive in the fourth knocking down a few threes and pulling the Knicks ahead for good. Toppin and Barrett combined for the first real show of Toppin’s athleticism with this sweet Statue of Liberty dunk.
Most impressively among the young guns is the defensive effort by Mitchell Robinson down the stretch with five fouls. Robinson understood the dilemma the team happened to be in and rose to the occasion. If Coach Thibodeau could have Robinson play as though he always has five fouls and is on the verge of letting his team down, we could really see his highest defensive potential.
Free agents Austin Rivers and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sat out their third consecutive preseason matchup out of an abundance of caution regarding nagging injuries. Frank Ntilikina and Nerlens Noel also missed last night’s game with Achilles and knee issues respectively. Both would have likely been active if it were the regular season. Alec Burks missed the game with personal reasons, which according to the broadcast had been known for some time.
The New York Knicks will close the preseason with another home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night at 7:30pm at Madison Square Garden.