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Have the Knicks Found Their Best Lineup?

A mini-winning streak out west has come as the New York Knicks play around with fresh lineups and rotations.

A three-point win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night not only pushed the New York Knicks (8-7) back above .500, but potentially laid down the foundation for a future late-game lineup. 

Trailing 84-80 entering the fourth quarter, the Knicks threw Immanuel Quickley out on the floor for the final 12 minutes. Fellow reserve Obi Toppin also earned major minutes, clocking in all but 40 seconds of the closing dozen. Each would up playing a major role in the eventual comeback that led to a 106-103 triumph. 

“I thought (putting them in) would give us energy, and it did,” head coach Thibodeau said. "Just having the ability to do some more switching, that sort of thing, and use our athleticism, which we were trying to get. They were switching, so what we wanted to do was get more cutting onto the floor.”

Though Denver inflated its lead to 96-86, the pair of Toppin and Quickley helped starters Jalen Brunson, Jalen Brunson, and Cam Reddish outscore the Nuggets 20-7 over the last eight minutes to pull off the victory. 

Some, namely those within the organization, feel like the Knicks are inching toward their ideal lineup as they get deeper into the season.

“I think our aggressiveness turns up a little bit (when Toppin and I are in),” Randle, he of a season-best 34 points against the Nuggets, said.

The decision to keep Reddish on the floor forced the struggling R.J. Barrett, as well as center Isaiah Hartenstein, to the bench for the finale. Hartenstein's departure, as well at Mitchell Robinson's injury, left the Knicks without a true rim-protector. 

Reddish proved why he earned the spot, having usurped Evan Fournier's shooting guard spot in the starting five: he posted a team-high plus/minus at plus-13 to go along with 10 points, three rebounds, two steals and a block, proving his value on both ends of the floor. It's part of a shift to a nine-man rotation that also includes reserve Derrick Rose.

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“He’s so talented. He can really score the ball, but he’s showing he’s (a) two-way and he can lock up and defend, whether it’s guards or wings,” Randle said. “So as long as he keeps doing that his value is amazing to us.” 

The Knicks' current two-game win streak comes after a defensive absence on Sunday, allowing a season-high 145 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They still rank 22nd in points allowed (115.5 per game) but have somewhat bucked the trend by letting up 111 and 103 in the respective road wins on Tuesday (Utah) and Wednesday (Denver). 

“We all got to make sacrifices. That’s the NBA for you, the best in the world,” Reddish said. “So you've got to make sacrifices if you want to win. Anybody can go out there and shoot a bunch of shots. Not everybody can go out there and win.”

The new lineup's next opportunity lands on Friday night when the Knicks battle the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco (10 p.m. ET, MSG/ESPN). 


You can follow Riley Sheppard on Twitter @RileyDSheppard

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