Knicks’ decision to go big with second unit pays off


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tom Thibodeau went big in Obi Toppin’s absence.

Amid talk of using RJ Barrett as a small-ball power forward, the Knicks’ coach went with Jericho Sims and Isaiah Hartenstein in a two-big lineup with the second unit as the Knicks hammered the Hornets, 121-102, at Spectrum Center on Friday.

“I liked the size of Isaiah and Jericho together,” Thibodeau said.

Toppin suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula during the second quarter of the Knicks’ win over the Hawks at the Garden on Wednesday. The 24-year-old reserve and fan favorite will be reevaluated in two to three weeks, the team said Thursday.

In five first-half minutes, the Knicks were outscored by five when Sims and Hartenstein shared the floor.

But in the second half, they outscored the Hornets by seven. Hartenstein had a strong all-around game, finishing with 11 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two assists in 18 minutes. He also hit his first 3-pointer since Nov. 18, spanning 10 games. Sims had two points and two rebounds in 12 minutes. He had been out of the rotation.

Isaiah Hartenstein, who scored 11 points, slams one home during the Knicks' 121-102 win over the Hornets.
Isaiah Hartenstein, who scored 11 points, slams one home during the Knicks’ 121-102 win over the Hornets.
AP

Quentin Grimes has already earned Thibodeau’s trust, to the point that the second-year guard convinced Thibodeau to use a challenge on a foul called against Grimes late in the third quarter. It would’ve been his fourth foul, but the Knicks won the challenge.

“It goes a long way having a coach trusting me like that, just to challenge something in the third quarter knowing I have three fouls, hoping I don’t pick up a fourth,” Grimes said. “I feel like it’s going to go a long way, not only right now, but later on in the season.”


Barrett has tried to be there for Cam Reddish, his former Duke teammate who has been relegated to bench duty after playing a significant role early on.

“We definitely talk all the time, talk every day,” Barrett said. “That’s my guy, my brother. So I’m keeping his spirits up.”


Ryan Arcidiacono (left ankle) was out for the Knicks. The Hornets were without LaMelo Ball (left ankle), Gordon Hayward (left shoulder), Dennis Smith Jr. (left ankle) and Mark Williams (left ankle).


Immanuel Quickley hopes the trade rumors that have involved him don’t come to fruition.

“I love being in New York,” he said.

Quickley scored 11 points and added four assists off the bench.


With a win Friday night, the Knicks joined the Bucks and the Celtics as the only teams in the Eastern Conference over .500 on the road. They have won five of their last seven games away from home to improve to 7-6 on the road.



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