ATLANTA — Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has searched through options to try to get the team untracked, and an unlikely positive has been the play of rookie Obi Toppin.
While many of the Knicks’ young players have struggled to find their footing, Toppin has provided an energy burst on both ends. He shot 5-for-8 and had 13 points in 18:34 in the Knicks’ 113-96 loss to the Hawks in Game 4 and is averaging 7.5 points in the series, nearly double his average of 4.1 in the regular season.
With Nerlens Noel struggling through a right ankle sprain that has limited his minutes and production, Toppin might get more minutes in a small-ball lineup.
"Right now we’re at the point where everything is on the table," Thibodeau said. "And Nerlens is a warrior. He’s given us everything he has. We have great belief in him. He’s nicked up but he’s out there fighting. The shot-blocking, the rim protecting is critical. So give us what you have."
Reggie Bullock has been tasked with trying to slow Trae Young. He not only has had little impact doing that but endured an 0-for-4 shooting performance in Game 4, 0-for-3 from three-point range.
Said Thibodeau, "We’re asking him to do a lot. He’s in a lot of actions offensively, but he’s guarding Trae. You’re using a lot of energy there. But same thing with him. When he’s open, we want him shooting. He’ll find his way. He’s a great pro. He’ll be ready."