Knicks Bench Trio Blends Special Brew Ahead of Playoffs

Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley

Getty Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley

Isaiah Hartenstein has warmed up in New York after a rocky start. It’s the exact opposite of Josh Hart’s red-hot start with the Knicks.

Hart seamlessly fit with the Knicks since he was acquired from Portland at the trade deadline. But Hartenstein is coming along quickly. He has already come a long way since joining the team in the offseason with a nagging Achilles pain.

While their journeys began on the opposite spectrum, their clever and all-heart plays are starting to bind them in one direction.

They are the ultimate role players.

Hartenstein and Hart love to mix it up in the paint and clean the glass on the defensive end. On offense, Hart is a wrecking ball on transition, while Hartenstein loves to fire outlet passes and backdoor assists.

On Wednesday night against the Miami Heat, with the game swinging back and forth in the fourth quarter, Hartenstein sparked the Knicks’ breakaway when he connected with Hart for an easy basket via the backdoor. It pushed the Knicks’ lead to three 88-85, and moments later, it swelled into a 10-point lead.

Brewing Chemistry

Add Immanuel Quickley as the fulcrum of that burgeoning Knicks’ second unit, and the trio is brewing something special heading into the playoffs.

“I think me, [Quickley], Josh (Hart) are just getting more and more chemistry,” Hartenstein said in the postgame locker room interview. “I think leading in the playoffs, that’s going to be something good.”

Since Hart joined the Knicks, their second unit has led the league in net rating (5.0). Their 14-6 record during that span speaks for itself.

Hartenstein said the win over the Heat without the injured Julius Randle in the second half meant a lot.

“We got a lot of guys that could step up in any way,” Hartenstein said. “I think that [closing] lineup, we move the ball a little bit more, and so I think,  just giving [Tom Thibodeau] another option we can use.”

Breakout Star

Quickley’s rise as a swiss army knife — the type of player who can easily slide into the starting unit and run with the bench with as much ease has catapulted the Knicks into a solid playoff team.

It’s reminiscent of how Brunson broke out last season with the Dallas Mavericks.

Their once-inconsistent bench has now found consistency with Quickley at the helm and flanked by Hart and Hartenstein’s all-out effort.

“I think Quick had done a great job even when Jalen (Brunson) was out, just stepping up,” Hartenstein said.

Quickley is averaging 12.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists with a 44/35/81 shooting split off the bench this season. He’s the odds on favorite to win the Sixth Man of the Year award.
But he’s also putting up a strong case to become a starter, too, which would be an issue if the Knicks won’t consolidate their roster with Quickley’s contract extension looming.
Quickely has raised his level of play when he fills in for an injured starter: 21.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists on a 47/38/83 shooting split.
The Knicks have a winning record (10-7) with Quickley as a starter. If he continues to ascend in the playoffs, Quickley’s contract extension talks this summer will be one of the big storylines for the Knicks.
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