Knick guard Immanuel Quickley (Bill Moore photo)

Health has become a critical factor for the Knicks, specifically the condition of starting point guard Jalen Brunson’s sprained right hand and sore left foot. After sitting on the bench in street clothes in the Knicks’ 137-115 win over the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, the team’s second leading scorer (23.8) behind Julius Randle (25.1) going into last night’s game versus the Miami Heat at MSG had missed seven of the previous 11 games.

The Knicks were 43-33, the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games ahead of the 40-35 No. 6 seed Nets and three in front of 40-36 No. 7 seed Heat when the game tipped off. With just five regular season games remaining, beginning with the No. 4 seed Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow on the road, getting Brunson at or near his optimum capacity will be a priority for the Knicks’ medical and sports science staff.

In his absence, guard Immanuel Quickley has elevated his production and increased his impact. The 23-year-old, third-year guard who has manned both backcourt positions is a leading candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Before facing the Heat, he was averaging 14.1 points and 4.1 rebounds, both career bests, and 3.3 assists per game.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said labeling Quickley as a point- or shooting-guard is immaterial.     

“I don’t know what he is, other than a good basketball player,” he maintained after the win over the Rockets, ending the Knicks’ three-game losing streak. “If you need scoring, he can score. If you need playmaking, he had nine assists.

“He’s effective starting. He’s effective coming off the bench. You can play him at the point, at the two, at the three. You can plug-and-play with him.”

Quickley scored a career-high 40 points on Monday with urging from his comrades to hit that milestone.

“My teammates were pushing me to get 40 and also try to get that 10th assist,” said Quickley, whose two foul shots with 4:11 remaining gave him a career-high 40 points. “Those were the most nervous free throws I ever took.” 

He shot 14-18 overall and 5-7 on 3-point attempts, but fell one assist short of 10.
“Quick was good,” complimented Randle. “He was super-efficient tonight in leading us to the win. He obviously had it going with his scoring and got a career high, so overall he did a good job with being a floor general out there. He was amazing.”

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