#6 – April 15, 2023: Toppin keeps Knicks afloat in Game 1 at Cavaliers
For the entirety of the 2022 offseason, the New York Knicks and Utah Jazz were embroiled in trade talks for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, who despite his desire to come home to NY wound up being dealt to Cleveland. The Cavs from that moment on were a hot-button topic surrounding the Knicks, and as fate would have it the Knicks and Cavs met up in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
It was a narrative that couldn’t have seemed more scripted. Were the Knicks going to lose in the playoffs (their second appearance in a decade) to the guy they chose not to go “all-in” for and acquire over the summer? Or, would the depth pieces they chose to keep show their value and lead the team to a series win?
Obi Toppin was one of the players rumored to be potentially moved in packages for Mitchell. The Knicks front office therefore essentially chose Toppin over Mitchell, and Obi proved them right with his performance against Cleveland, and he did so specifically in Game 1.
Nine points in 14 minutes is always pretty impressive for any player and is not abnormal for Toppin. That being said, that doesn’t really jump off the page as some great feat, even for a playoff game. However, the box score itself doesn’t tell the whole story.
The box score does help though, as it shows that Toppin scored those points by shooting 3-for-4 from the field, 1-for-2 from deep, and knocking down both of his two free throw attempts. But the most important part was that he did all of this in the third quarter to help New York gain an 11-point advantage over six minutes. This stretch included a 9-0 run by the Knicks. This game wound up being very close down the stretch, but Toppin’s third-quarter heroics created enough momentum for his squad to close out the game and go up 1-0 in the series.