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Immanuel Quickley dropped face down on the court and made a swimming motion with his arms and legs after nailing his third of five 3-pointers Friday night.
The electrifying rookie point guard helped the Knicks make their way back upstream after three straight losses to end their recent road trip, scoring 25 points in 23 minutes off the bench, including 14 in the fourth quarter, in a 102-81 win over Cleveland at the Garden.
The Knicks (9-11) held All-Star big man Andre Drummond to just four points — albeit with 15 rebounds — in another strong defensive effort, despite nine combined fouls between centers Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel.
Darius Garland had 24 points for the Cavaliers, who scored just 37 in the first half and 55 through three quarters. The 81 points were the second-fewest points allowed by this Knicks this season, behind only the 75 they held the Celtics to on Jan. 17.
RJ Barrett contributed 24 points, Austin Rivers added 13 off the bench and Julius Randle finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Knicks, who will face the Los Angeles Clippers at home on Sunday.
Quickley, who continues press starting point guard Elfrid Payton (two points in 23 minutes) for playing time, also converted the Knicks’ first 4-point play of the season with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The 25th overall pick out of Kentucky had shot just 1-for-11 from the floor in Tuesday’s loss in Utah, one game after notching a career-high 31 in the previous game in Portland.
Robinson had said before the game that he was focused on his matchup with Drummond, who dominated in a 106-103 win over the Knicks on Jan. 15 with 33 points and 23 rebounds.
“Oh definitely. Tonight I’m going to play a whole lot smarter. Going to come out here and get after it, give my best,” said Robinson, who scored six points and committed five fouls Friday night.
Robinson also was minus-15 in Tuesday’s loss in Utah and outdone on the stat sheet by All-Star center Rudy Gobert (18 points and 19 rebounds).
Asked if he envisions eventually putting up numbers like Drummond’s and Gobert’s, Robinson added: “I know I can defend. I don’t really compare myself to other players. I mean, I’m worried about our team. Other players, they can talk about whatever they want to talk about. I’m just talking about us as Knicks.”
The Knicks missed eight of nine shots and spotted Cleveland a quick 13-3 lead, but Rivers and Quickley combined for a dozen points during a 16-4 run for a two-point lead by the end of the quarter.
Randle didn’t attempt a field goal until there were four minutes left in the second quarter, but his 19-foot jumper, two dunks by Robinson put the Knicks up 38-31. Two drives and a corner three by Barrett extended the Knicks’ lead to 14, and they carried a 47-33 lead into intermission.
Drummond had just four points in the half, but Noel was whistled for three fouls and Robinson had two, prompting the first appearance for veteran big man Taj Gibson — albeit for just one minute — since he signed to return to the Knicks on Jan. 7.
The Cavs shot just 29 percent from the floor and were 2-for-10 from 3-point range through two quarters, but Sexton and Garland combined for 16 points in a 19-2 surge to open the third to help close the gap to 52-49.
The Knicks reheated with a 12-1 run to close out the quarter, however, including a baseline dunk for a three-point play by Quickley and a late three by the rookie point guard for a 72-55 lead entering the fourth.
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