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Immanuel Quickley matched up against Nets' Kyrie Irving in first NBA start for Knicks

Immanuel Quickley #5 of the New York Knicks

Immanuel Quickley #5 of the New York Knicks is fouled during the second quarter by Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Monday, March 15, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

From the time he arrived in New York as the 25th pick in the draft, Immanuel Quickley has had some of the usual learning curves to navigate, but one thing he always had was the confidence to take on any assignment.

So when he got his first starting assignment Monday, there was no hesitation from him, or coach Tom Thibodeau, to test himself against one of the best point guards in the game, the Nets’ Kyrie Irving. And though the lessons weren’t easy to absorb, he was back on the floor with 3:45 to play after Frank Ntilikina fouled out while trying to slow Irving.

With the Knicks down by five, it was a test that, pass or fail, Quickley was willing to take and Thibodeau was willing to put him through.

With Spike Lee seated courtside at a nearly empty Barclays Center and a national television audience looking on, this felt like something more than just another night.

In the end, the Knicks lost, 117-112. Quickley had 21 points but struggled as he tried to slow down Irving, who had 34 points.

"It was definitely intensity all around the game, especially going against Kyrie, James Harden, a powerful offensive team," Quickley said. "It was really cool to get a start against them because I know it’s going to help me down the road."

Toppin cut short

The Knicks’ other rookie, Obi Toppin, didn’t have as memorable a night in his return to his hometown of Brooklyn.

Toppin, who was taken with the eighth overall pick and still resides in Brooklyn, entered the game to start the second quarter with the Knicks trailing by five. When the Nets ran off a 14-2 burst in 3 minutes and 43 seconds, that was all for Toppin.

He was 0-for-2 and air-balled a three-point attempt from the corner, which has been an alarming trend this season. He had one rebound and a foul.

Toppin played only 8 minutes and 53 seconds Saturday against Oklahoma City, and much of that came after the game already was out of reach.

Robinson progressing

Mitchell Robinson was on the court before the game, doing some shooting, ballhandling and rebounding drills. During the All-Star break, he put out a photo of himself without the cast on his fractured right hand.

"He’s making progress," Thibodeau said. "So there’s a progression to this. He’s actually doing well. He still has to go through contact in practice and that sort of thing. But hopefully it will be soon."

Still missing

Austin Rivers, who has been gone since the All-Star break on paternity leave, remained away from the team. "When he has the baby and he’s ready to come back, he’ll come back," Thibodeau said. "We’re giving him all the time that he needs."

New York Sports