In a momentous second-quarter encounter on Sunday, Obi Toppin made a long cross pass to RJ Barrett to kick off a quick break, then sprinted down the field. Barrett slowed down and left a ball behind his back for Toppin, who drove it home.
It doesn’t look like a nice assist from Toppin – who finished with six career-best assists – will help him quickly pass the others in the rotation. The big man will likely become a backup quarterback again.
Toppin played solid in Toronto on his second start after losing Julius Randle to the COVID-19 roster, replacing the reigning All-Star in the lineup – as many fans had requested – due to the circumstances and not a change in the team’s vision. But the Knicks lost the two games Randle missed and were understaffed.
Tom Thibodeau hasn’t directly compared Toppin to town’s most popular player – the second-chain QB on a struggling team – but the dots are easy to connect.
“Everyone thinks the save should start until it has to start,” said the Knicks coach after their 120-105 loss to the Raptors. “Julius is a great player. Derrick [Rose is] creepy. Kemba [Walker is] creepy. But guys are going to miss games, and when they do, there are some great players on our bench. ”
Thus, the Knicks are expected to return to a Randle-centric team when the power forward is activated from the health and safety protocols, which he entered on Thursday. In the meantime, Toppin is showing the Knicks something – if not enough – with his extra minutes.
Regarded the entire season as a spark plug on the bench, Toppin hadn’t registered 30 minutes in a game until Sunday – when Thibodeau, as if to make up for lost time, leaned on the 23-year-old. for a little over 45 minutes.
The Knicks were short under the basket, with Randle, Nerlens Noel, Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims all coming out, and Toppin even got a few stares down the middle when Taj Gibson took a break. While Toppin tied a career-high 19 points and looked far from the problem, he also couldn’t help the Knicks overcome their shortcomings.
The Raptors passed them, 44-30. Pascal Siakam caught 14 – against 6 for Toppin – and the 6-foot-9 Scottie Barnes jumped over the 6-9 Toppin for a first signal that set the tone.
There wasn’t a Knicks player on the right side of the plus-minus line, and Toppin finished with a minus-9 despite 7 of 12 shots from the field and two blocks and one steal.
“It’s a lot of guys that came out and a lot of new guys starting to play a lot more,” said Toppin, whose 53.8 field goal percentage would be the 15th best in the NBA if he qualified. . “All I’m saying is we have to find a way to play with each other and just be consistent.”
With Robinson and Sims cleared from questionable Monday protocols for Tuesday’s game against the Pacers at the Garden, the sophomore lottery pick could have the chance to play alongside a truer center, which would give Toppin a better match and allow him to run as much as he wants.
We wondered if he could keep rocking the Knicks’ offense over a longer period of time, rather than 15-minute bursts on the bench.
As he scored more points than every Knick except for Evan Fournier (who had 20), Toppin never stopped running and stayed active.
“It means something,” Toppin said of the opportunity he is seizing. “But obviously the loss sucks. We are just going to learn from this game and improve ourselves for the next games. ”
At some point in the next few games, Randle will be erased and the Knicks will make room for the polarizing power forward. Maybe the Knicks sliding without their $ 117million man will silence calls for Toppin to play more minutes. Or maybe Randle’s shot will continue to struggle (only 32.8% beyond the arc) and the pressure will increase for a longer look at Toppin.
He didn’t steal the job, but he was closer to Mike White than Mike Glennon.