Knicks, Immanuel Quickley making NBA take notice

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Nerlens Noel did a fine approximation of injured Knicks center Mitchell Robinson. Immanuel Quickley made fellow Kentucky Wildcat John Wall even prouder, hitting his first six shots and hitting big 3-pointers in the second half when the Rockets were rallying.

Quickley finished with a spectacular 22 points, draining seven of nine shots — four of six from 3. Julius Randle was Julius Randle.

Derrick Rose, playing before his former Knicks coach/current Rockets assistant Jeff Hornacek, was spry for a third straight game, adding another 16 points.

The Knicks played their most flawless first half of the season in the first game without Robinson and wound up with a wonderful 121-99 rout over the Rockets at a Garden, which will have fans to enjoy this in 10 days.

The triumph capped a terrific Valentine’s Day weekend with back-to-back blowouts of Washington and Houston that edged the Knicks closer to .500 at 13-15 — seventh place in the conference. Basketball New York is starting to fall in love with the scrappy Knicks, especially Quickley.

It spoiled Wall’s first game at the Garden since Dec. 3, 2018, when he was with the Wizards. Yeah, it’s been that long.

The newest member of the Rockets is delighted to be back and delighted about another Kentucky point guard making good. Wall dazzled himself with 26 points in the loss.

“He’s someone I respect,’’ Wall said of Quickley before the game. “I’m very happy for him to get the opportunity. I’m glad he’s showing people he’s more than just a shooter. That’s a lot of what people thought. The way he runs the point guard position has been good. It’s going to be good to go against him.”

Wall, who starred at Kentucky in 2009-10, still keeps close tabs on John Calipari’s program. And the longtime Wizard has gotten a chance to know Knicks rookie point guard, who hails from Baltimore and played two seasons for Kentucky.

Even after Saturday’s loss, Wall made sure to give Quickley some more encouragement.

“He told me I was having a good season, he told me to keep working,’’ Quickley said. “And just stay with it. It’s a long season but just keep getting better every day.’’

Wall visited Kentucky last season during a rehab, catching the Wildcats’ game against Florida. Quickley scored a career-high 26 points with Wall watching and they made a video together. This time, he got to 22 points.

“It was cool,’’ Quickley said after his big second-half outing. “We bleed blue. He’s been part of my development.’’ Giving me encouraging words. Good to see him on the floor.’’

In fact, Quickley admitted to the Lexington Herald-Leader he was interested in the Wildcats because of Wall.

“Obviously, everybody knows John Wall,” Quickley said in 2016. “He can get up and down the court in three, four dribbles. And he gets everybody involved. That’s just one of the many point guards from John Calipari that I’ve watched.”

Wall is taking a special pride in Quickley.

“I watched him play in Baltimore before,’’ Wall said before facing the Knicks. “I’ve talked to him before he went to Kentucky. We did a little video together when I watched them play last year.”

Quickley has come off the bench for the Knicks across the first 28 games, and his career has received a new jolt with the arrival of Rose. Social media fretted Rose would adversely affect Quickley’s minutes. Au contraire.

Coach Tom Thibodeau has made Rose and Quickley a backcourt tandem off the bench, and it’s been a smash.

“I’m learning a lot of stuff [from him],’’ Quickley said. “I don’t want to give it away because a lot of stuff I’m going to take with me throughout my career. So really just his energy. He’s a dog, an alpha dog, he’s a leader. It’s great to have somebody like that in my corner.’’

Saturday’s first two quarters were a masterpiece, as the Knicks built a 63-47 lead. They scored whenever they wanted. They didn’t commit their first turnover until 57 seconds left in the half, when Randle tried to find Noel and sent it out of bounds.

Randle certainly was looking for their new starting center, Noel, now that Robinson could be out six weeks with a broken hand.

Robinson watched from the second row of the bench in a white shirt and a white cast on his right hand — likely facing surgery.

Wall, did not play last season and had his 2018-19 season cut short by a heel injury before a torn Achilles. Quickley had a fine mentor in Wall, and now the torch has been passed to Rose.

“It’s his ability to bring the best out of everyone around him,’’ Thibodeau said of Rose.

“They’re a team that plays hard,’’ Wall said entering the matchup. “You know how Thibs plays [his teams]. Julius [Randle] is playing good, and D-Rose just went over there and we all know what he’s about. They’re a good team on the rise.’’

The Knicks proved it Saturday.

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