NEW YORK — A forced lineup change helped boost the Knicks' offense.
Starting point guard Elfrid Payton was scratched because of a hamstring strain, prompting Tom Thibodeau to start Derrick Rose and adjust the rotation. The response was immediate in the Knicks’ 140-121 victory over the Kings on Thursday — a victory that, given the jumbled nature of the standings, pushed the Knicks (16-17) from 10th in the conference to tied for fifth.
Rose was efficient with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Immanuel Quickley detonated off the bench with 25 points in just 19 minutes. Frank Ntilikina played for the first time since December, contributing a solid 23 minutes. Alec Burks sealed the victory by scoring 19 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, exploding down the stretch after the Kings’ cut the deficit to seven. The Knicks totaled 38 points in the first quarter, then 39 in the second. It was the Knicks’ best offensive half of the season, and it was almost matched by their second. They shot 59% overall while hitting 19 3-pointers.
It helped that the Kings (12-20) are the worst defensive team in the league, but it was also suited for the personnel since Rose and Quickley push the pace and play faster than Payton. For the Knicks guards, it was a great bounce-back effort. Quickley had shot just 3 for 22 in his three games while averaging just 5.7 points. Rose shot 11 for 42 in his previous four games. Burks’ slump was longer: 11 for 39 in his last six games.
Their shooting hands were aflame against Sacramento. The 140 points were the most by the Knicks this season.
Payton played and started every game until Thursday. It’s unclear when he’ll return but he was a game-time decision against the Kings and Thibodeau labeled it “just some soreness.” The same injury — a strained groin — sabotaged Payton’s last season in New York by causing him to miss the first month.
“In terms of Elfrid’s value to the team, we’ve seen it,” Thibodeau said. “His strengths are different than some of the other guys' — his size, ability to guard the ball and ability to get in the paint, they’re invaluable to use. He’s had a very good season. We need everyone.”©2021 New York Daily News. Visit at nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.