Taj Gibson Credit: Bill Moore photo

Practicing time during the NBA regular season is a rare commodity as games come fast and furious. The schedule makers gave the Knicks a two-day pause between games after their 106-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. They will host the Phoenix Suns at the Garden tomorrow night to begin a perilous stretch of games. 

The Knicks will face the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets away from home this Saturday and next Tuesday respectively, then come back to MSG to play the Chicago Bulls Thursday, Dec. 2, and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, Dec. 4. 

So holding off the Lakers, who were without LeBron James, was a necessary victory. James was serving a one-game suspension after elbowing the Detroit Pistons’ 20-year-old forward Isaiah Stewart above his right eye on Sunday, causing a large gash as they jockeyed for position during a foul shot in the third quarter. Stewart was knocked to the floor by the blow and once he arose was relentless in trying to get at James. He had to be restrained by multiple players and coaches, and consequently was suspended for two games. 

Thankfully for the Knicks, James wasn’t available because they once again labored to close out an opponent after gaining a large lead. Playing without starting center Mitchell Robinson (concussion), guard Derrick Rose (ankle), who’s fourth on the team in scoring, and center Taj Gibson (groin), the Knicks blitzed the Lakers in the first quarter and went up by 25 in the second quarter before the Lakers cut it to 63-31 at the half. 

By 1:26 of the third, a Carmelo Anthony dunk tied the score at 79-79. The Knicks pushed the lead back up to 105-93 on an Immanuel Quickley three-pointer with 5:00 on the clock in the fourth and withstood another Lakers run. Quickley’s four fourth quarter three-pointers was a key to the win. 

“Yeah, he is fearless. I’ll say it again, he is fearless,” emphasized Julius Randle, who had 20 points and 16 rebounds, in speaking of the second-year guard. “Because he works the way he works. It doesn’t surprise me.”

Quickley, who finished with 14 points, attributed the victory to a group mindset of next man up. “We have a great team, one through 15, anybody could step in and be ready to play,” he said. “That’s the great thing about our team is we have guys that if somebody is out and no question, we miss Derrick tonight, but he was still a leader, still talking off the floor, just making sure guys are in the right spots and things like that.”

Guard Evan Fournier, who went 6-9 from three and registered 26 points versus the Lakers, had his best performance as a Knick since scoring 32 in the season opener in a 138-132 double overtime win against the Boston Celtics.

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