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The New York Knicks outscored the Cleveland Cavaliers by 21 points in the fourth quarter en route to a thrilling win, but there’s a catch.

Danny Small

New York Knicks fans have not had much to cheer about for the last nine months. Even if it was preseason, Wednesday night’s come-from-behind win over the Cleveland Cavaliers had to be a cathartic experience for everyone watching from their couches.

The Knicks were as lifeless as the empty, cavernous Madison Square Garden for three quarters, but then the young guns took over. New York outscored Cleveland 34-13 in the fourth quarter and they were led by six guys age 22 or younger. Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Obi Toppin, Dennis Smith Jr., and Mitchell Robinson were a breath of fresh air for Knicks fans.

Quickley stole the show in the fourth quarter despite shooting 3-for-11 from the floor in the game. His energy, penetration with the dribble, and ability to find his teammates provided a shot of life. After leaving Kentucky with a career-high of five assists in a game, Quickley dished out seven in one of his first games as a Knick.

Is there a chance that the rookie becomes a go-to point guard rather than a “combo” guard? He thinks so.

“Coming in, I was trying to tell all the NBA teams that I’m somebody who just happened to play off the ball at Kentucky that one year, my sophomore year,” Quickley told reporters after the game. “I can really do both.”

After two lackluster performances against the Detroit Pistons, Knox shined against Cleveland. He was everything that he hasn’t been over the last two seasons: instinctual, fluid, and loose. After missing his first few shots, Knox found his stroke, canning five of eight from the field and three of his five attempts from deep.

But Knox’s best play of the night came on a pass. After securing a defensive rebound, Knox found Barrett on the quick outlet for two easy points. That’s the type of instinctual play we have not seen from Knox consistently enough over his first two years in The Association.

Although Knox and Quickley were the two eye-openers, the other young bucks showed out as well. Barrett quietly put up 16 points (and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the charity stripe). Robinson struggled with fouls early, but held it together en route to a double-double. Toppin finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and a violent dunk to put the cherry on top. Even Smith found his way into the action with five steals and some timely plays that helped get the comeback off the ground.

All in all, it was a fantastic preseason performance for the young Knicks. This is what fans what to see this season — a young team playing hard and playing together. Few fans expect the Knicks to challenge for a playoff spot, but the expectation is that these young Knicks will compete hard night in and night out.

The Counterpoint

As much as Knicks fans loved what they saw against the Cavs, we should take a step back to evaluate everything on the table. It would have been a major red flag if the young Knicks didn’t dominate the fourth quarter.

Let’s look at the lineups for both teams.

In crunch time, the Knicks had three top-10 picks (Barrett, Knox, Toppin), a first-rounder (Quickley), and a projected lottery pick who fell to the second round because he didn’t play college ball (Robinson). If we add Smith to the mix, that’s four top-10 picks.

The final unit on the floor for the Cavaliers included four undrafted players (Lamar Stevens, Matt Mooney, Marques Bolden, and Dean Wade) with a combined 17 games and 93 minutes of NBA experience. The other guy was Damyean Dotson, a player that the Knicks did not feel was worth re-signing for $2 million.

It was nine months without Knicks basketball. No one is trying to rain on anyone’s parade here. Obviously, Knicks fans deserve to enjoy a comeback win, preseason or not, but it’s important to put this victory in perspective. This win does not signify a change in the “culture” or a “turning point” for the organization.

It’s only a small step in a lengthy process.

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