The New York Knicks got their season started against the Boston Celtics, and they managed to come away with a thrilling double overtime win.
After a back and forth game in regulation, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart sank a last-second three that sent the game into the first overtime, and then the teams began to look gassed. Eventually, the Knicks pulled away in the second OT and took home the season opening win.
The Knicks might not have even been in that position had it not been for a major change that Tom Thibodeau made in the second half. Shorthanded at center, the Knicks went with Mitchell Robinson as a starter with Jericho Sims backing him up.
In the second half, Thibs made the change to play Obi Toppin and Julius Randle together, and it completely turned the game around. It didn’t take long to see Sims was going to have a rough time, and by going to Toppin, the offense opened up in a huge way.
This adjustment alone changed the whole trajectory of the game, and it might even lead the Knicks to run it more in the future. With more and more teams featuring small-ball lineups, it doesn’t make sense for the Knicks to not do it.
Obi Toppin X-Factor
After an up-and-down rookie season where he wasn’t able to get many minutes, Obi Toppin shined in his season debut.
He showcased the athleticism he’s been known for and had some very good plays in transition. One spot he will need to get some work at is his three-point shooting. He was left open a handful of times behind the arc so he just let them fly, but the shots didn’t even come close to going on.
More consistent playing time will be big for him, and if the Knicks continue to remain short-handed at the center position, that could prove to be his ticket into the lineup. The Knicks feature two very good defensive centers in Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson, but neither of them can provide the type of explosive offense like Toppin can, and that was made clear against the Celtics.
As a lottery pick, Toppin’s development is far from over, and if he’s able to get this type of trust from his teammates and coaching staff, there’s so much more he can add to his game. However, if he wants to get some real minutes at power forward, that’s going to be tough because Julius Randle is looking as good as he’s ever looked.
If the Knicks ever need somebody to catch a well-placed lob, Toppin has proved to be that guy. He finished with 14 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Evan Fournier Shows Up
New signing Evan Fournier had many big moments, including a go-ahead three late in double overtime.
Playing against his former team, Fournier put on a show and showed just what he can provide for the Knicks.
If he’s able to keep anything close to this level of production up, the Knicks can be a really dangerous team this year.