new york knicks
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The bench led the New York Knicks to a win with a dominant second half from Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose.

Danny Small

This is becoming routine for the New York Knicks. The starters hold the line early with Julius Randle leading the way before watching the second unit run up the score. Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose are becoming fast friends in the backcourt and things are looking up for the Knicks.

A shorthanded Houston Rockets group came to Madison Square Garden to take on the Knicks on Saturday night. There was no Christian Wood and no Victor Oladipo. This is one night after the Washington Wizards were without Bradley Beal against the Knicks.

The Knicks are catching these teams at the right time, but they are suffering a significant injury of their own. Mitchell Robinson will be out four to six weeks with a fracture in his right hand. Despite the absence of their starting center, the rest of the Knicks picked up the slack no problem.

Patrick Ewing wore 33 when he played for the Knicks. Let’s take a look at three highlights and three observations from the Knicks’ 121-99 victory.

Highlight 1: Derrick Rose Reverse

Highlight 2: RJ Barrett To Nerlens Noel

Highlight 3: Fearless Immanuel Quickley

 

Observation 1: Bench On Fire

Every Knick finished with a positive plus-minus on Saturday night, but it was the bench that did the heavy lifting. New York’s bench outscored Houston’s 58-20.

Quickley and Rose combined for 38 points in 34 minutes on the floor. That newly-formed backcourt duo is already firing on all cylinders. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau thinks Rose is a big part of the bench resurgence.

“It’s also his ability to bring the best out of everyone around him,” Thibodeau told reporters on a postgame Zoom call. “So I think what we’re seeing now is we’re seeing some really good play out of Obi and the way that group is playing. It’s terrific. Alec, I don’t want to overlook anything that he does to just make the team function well when it’s on the floor.”

The Knicks are beginning to find their swagger and the second unit is one of the biggest reasons for this recent surge (credit to Randle as well).

Observation 2: Julius Randle’s Shooting

Speaking of Randle, it’s time to acknowledge his pristine shooting numbers this season. For the first 20 or so games, it felt like we were waiting for Randle to regress to the mean from beyond the arc. He only had two three-point attempts on Saturday, but he’s been money from deep all year long.

In 28 games, Randle is shooting 39.4% from three. That would be a career-high mark for him and he’s doing it on 4.07 threes per game.

The seven-year man out of Kentucky is making vast improvements in a number of key areas this year, but his three-point shooting might be the most significant leap. Yes, Randle is an All-Star this year.

Observation 3: Noel’s Seamless Transition

Losing Robinson is going to hurt the Knicks, but it didn’t on Saturday. Nerlens Noel made a seamless transition into the starting lineup, scoring 10 points and blocking two shots.

“I think the big thing is, when you look at him, statistically, and you see the rim protection and where he ranks in the league,” Thibodeau said. “You knew that would be a great asset. And it’s the same thing with Mitch. And so, when we sub we don’t lose that component of the defense, which I think is critical. We have two elite rim protectors.”

Noel is a very similar player to Robinson and he’s the logical choice to start for the foreseeable future. Moving into the starting lineup wasn’t a big deal for the veteran center or his teammates. He was asked if there was any talk before the game about him taking over for Robinson.

“No, it was very casual,” Noel admitted. “They know I’m ready, they know that once that test comes, I’ll be ready to go.”

Taj Gibson held his own on the second unit. However, in his pregame press conference, Thibodeau mentioned that he’s open to using Randle or Obi Toppin as a small-ball five in the future.

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