The 2,000 fans who were at the Garden on Thursday night were determined to make their voices heard. So during a rough patch against the Kings in the first quarter, they chanted for coach Tom Thibodeau to put in rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley.
Quickley did get in, and boy, did the fans get their money’s worth out of him and the rest of the squad.
Derrick Rose, not Quickley, was the fill-in starter for injured point guard Elfrid Payton, but Quickley came off the bench to score 18 of his 25 points in the first half as part of an offensive explosion.
The Knicks beat Sacramento, 140-121, for their first victory of the season in front of the home fans. It was the most points they have scored this season.
"I did hear it when I was on the bench," Quickley said before his Zoom session was crashed by Julius Randle. "It was actually kind of funny. I was laughing under my mask so nobody could see my expression. It’s pretty cool to have a whole crowd behind you."
Randle had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Knicks (16-17). Alec Burks scored a season-high 24 off the bench, including 19 in the fourth quarter, when he shot 5-for-6 from three-point range. Rose, who made his first seven shots, finished with 18 points and six assists.
The Knicks shot 59% from the field against the NBA’s worst defensive team and were 19-for-36 on three-pointers. Even Kevin Knox hit a three.
"It was good. It was cookin’," Randle said. "Everybody was sharing. Everybody was having fun."
Thibodeau said he liked the shooting, but he crustily lamented that the Knicks gave up 120. "If we had gotten more stops," he said, "probably could have scored even more."
Quickley, who shot 3-for-22 in the previous three games, was 5-for-10 from the field (3-for-6 on threes) and 12-for-12 from the line.
"It’s all set up with his shot, but he’s real clever," Thibodeau said. "He studies how he’s being guarded and we take advantage of that. I think the added benefit to that is also getting to the bonus early. If you can do that, you’re putting points on the board, and we understand the value of a free throw. Obviously, he’s such a great free-throw shooter [90-for-96, 93.8%]. We want as many as we can get."
The Kings (12-20) lost their ninth straight game. They were led by De’Aaron Fox’s 29 points and 11 assists and Harrison Barnes’ 22 points.
The Knicks scored a season-high 77 points in the first half. It all started with Rose in his first start in his eighth game as a Knick since he was acquired from Detroit on Feb. 8.
With Payton a game-time scratch because of a strained right hamstring, Rose came out as if he still were a 22-year-old MVP. He opened with a drive and layup, a jumper and a three-pointer for the Knicks’ first seven points.
Rose’s renaissance didn’t stop the fans from chanting "We want Quickley" — especially after Sacramento went on an 11-0 run. Quickley checked in. A few minutes later, he was joined by another fan favorite, Frank Ntilikina, who saw his first action since Dec. 29 and finished with seven points and three steals.
Quickley hit his first shot and later made a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in the first and was fouled. The four-point play gave the Knicks a 38-29 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Knicks, who scored 116 points in the first, second and fourth quarters, expanded a 15-point halftime lead to 18 and were up by as much as 23.
The last time the Knicks played the Kings was on Jan. 22 in Sacramento. The Knicks shot 5-for-22 on three-pointers and scored 94 points in a loss. It’s the only game this season that the Kings have held an opponent to fewer than 100 points.