NY Knicks: Rookies not afraid of the moment in playoff debuts

Immanuel Quickley, NY Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Seth Wenig/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Immanuel Quickley, NY Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Seth Wenig/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports /

The NY Knicks came into game 1 of their first-round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks knowing that Madison Square Garden would be exploding with energy.

No matter what players might say leading up to the game, there was no way for anyone to be ready for that crowd last night.

The world’s most famous area had palpable energy that shook every nook and cranny of the orange and blue court, and while the Knicks came up short, there were some positive takeaways that the team can take into game 2.

NY Knicks: Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin were ready for the moment

Going into the series there were questions surrounding New York’s playoff rotation.

Teams will typically lean heavily on their star players while running a tighter rotation for the playoffs. You’ll often see multiple players play north of 40 minutes per game.

NY Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau typically gets pushed into the “no-nonsense”, “old-school” coach label that can carry a negative connotation of him being a stubborn coach.

Even if Thibodeau isn’t the young, happy-go-lucky “player’s coach” that everyone wants, he’s been the coach this team has needed.

Thibodeau may not have had a perfect game 1 with his rotations and playcalling, but he showed a strong trust in some of his younger players that some thought he was incapable of.

It was safe to assume that Rose and Burks would have their usual big roles, but it was hard to predict how Immanuel Quickley would fit in with playoff rotation.

Quickley finished he game with 3 assists and 10 points on 4/7 shooting in 21 minutes. It was a story we’ve seen before: Immanuel Quickley checks into the game and gives the team a spark. The Knicks score +4.7 more points per 100 posessions with Quickley on the floor.

Still, we’ve seen Quickley, like any rookie, hit some walls in his first NBA season. That was not the case Sunday night – he looked as ready as anyone. The Hawks do not have anyone who can effectively guard him.

It’s a testament to both Quickley’s maturity as an individual and the coaching staff getting their young guys ready.

It wasn’t just Quickley who contributed – New York’s other rookie, Obi Toppin, played well running with the 2nd unit.

Toppin played 12 minutes, which may be minimal, but it was certainly more than many thought the rookie would get in the playoffs.

Obi Toppin wasn’t perfect in game 1 but he looked comfortable on the court. Toppin, like Quickley, found ways to contribute and bring the team back to life after a sluggish first quarter. The Knicks showed their depth in this game. 

Obi Toppin was a contributor in the high-octane 2nd unit offense. He brought playoff-level intensity and took smart shots. He looked like he had been here before.

This is about more than just Quickley and Toppin’s performances in game 1, it’s reflective of the culture that this team has built in 2021.

Both Quickley and Obi Toppin are playing roles on a playoff team in just their rookie seasons. Even if they aren’t playing 30 minutes a night, you can be confident in how the team is going to develop them and surround them with a healthy environment.

Tom Thibodeau will be ready to make adjustments for game 2.

He already gave sizeable responsibilities to the rookies in their first playoff game. Given how good the 2nd unit looked (Every bench player finished with a positive +/- outside of Frank Ntilikina who only logged 1 minute), we may very well see even more of the bench mob in game 2.

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