Young Knicks’ wild fourth quarter sparks comeback win
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After three dreadful quarters, the Knicks’ kiddie corps heated up in the fourth quarter. They did everything but make the snow go away.
Trailing by 18 points in the third quarter and 17 early in the fourth, the Knicks’ young guns, headed by rookie combo guard Immanuel Quickley and a suddenly resurgent Kevin Knox, propelled a comeback and a stirring 100-93 win over the Cavaliers in the preseason home opener.
After looking lethargic in the early going, Knox scorched in a sensational fourth quarter to hit three 3-pointers and finish with 16 points.
Quickley, the 25th pick in the draft, was a second-half spark in his home debut and ignited the Knicks offense with pace. Quickley didn’t shoot for a high percentage (3 of 11) but finished with nine electric points and seven assists.
The Knicks scored just 13 points in the third quarter before they awoke with those young legs.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has said he wants to take advantage of the “athleticism’’ of their youth.
The quintet of Knox, Quickley, Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin, and RJ Barrett lit up the night in the fourth quarter when the Knicks won the period 34-13.
The Garden pumped in a wave of fake crowd noise most noticeable in the fourth quarter when the Knicks made that run.
Barrett was a barreling beast in his third straight solid outing. Robinson scored 12 points and added 10 rebounds before getting clocked in the nose in the final minute.
Toppin, after a quiet start, added eight points and a vicious last-minute dunk. In a rookie scene that could begat the future, Quickley lofted a lob for Toppin, who slammed it home during the fourth-quarter surge.
Earlier, the Cavaliers were killing the Knicks from deep. The Knicks started the game 3 of 25 from the 3-point line as the Cavaliers built an 18-point lead in the third period.
On the strength of their 3-point shooting, the Cavaliers took a 57-53 halftime lead. The Cavaliers nailed 8 of 15 3s — with the Knicks looking a lot like David Fizdale’s club on defense. The Knicks shot just 3 of 13 from deep, their 3-point woes continuing.
The Knicks rallied from a 45-34 deficit in the second quarter with Julius Randle and Barrett providing sparks. Randle’s top play came on a steal and fast-break dunk during their late second-quarter run. Randle notched 13 first-half points.
Barrett was driving with aplomb again and notched 10 points in the first half. It was a so-so first half for backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. In the final seconds of the first quarter, as he dribbled down the clock, he was stripped and Andre Drummond’s fast-break dunk at the buzzer put Cleveland ahead 25-24.
Robinson, who started at center for an injured Nerlens Noel, picked up two fouls in the opening three minutes and came out.
He was tough on the boards but also out of position at times. On one play, he never came out to defend Dean Wade, who drilled a wide-open 3 to put the Cavaliers up by double digits. Inside, Drummond had his way with Robinson, scoring 16 first-half points.
While Smith didn’t look too sharp, rookie guard Quickley showed electricity, scoring on a couple of driving floaters and nailing a 3-pointer — his specialty. Quickley, who played at Kentucky, tallied five points in eight first-half minutes.
In his Garden debut, Toppin seemed hobbled after he stepped on the foot of a Cavaliers player soon after checking in.
The Cavaliers passed on Toppin at No. 5 to take defensive wing Isaac Okoro, who has surprised with his offensive panache. Toppin was projected to go to Cleveland in almost all mock drafts.
“It went all the way up to draft night,’’ Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said before the game. “It was back and forth. It was a debate. We decided on the need he filled on the defensive end of the floor.”
Thibodeau was making his Knicks home head-coaching debut after spending six years as an assistant, mostly under Jeff Van Gundy.
“It’s unfortunate the fans can’t be here,’’ Thibodeau said before the game. “But there’s no better place for big games in this building and the knowledge of the fans if you make a good basketball play it’s recognized. It’s a very unique place. It’s the best place in the league to play. Players get very excited about playing here. I’m excited to be part of it.”
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