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Obi Toppin alley-oop dunk black uniform Hawks Game 2

Obi Toppin alley-oop dunk black uniform Hawks Game 2

The KnicksGame 2 win over the Atlanta Hawks was led by veterans, as Derrick Rose, Julius Randle, and Reggie Bullock hit some big shots, but it may have also featured rookie Obi Toppin’s best all-around performance of the season.

After struggling to ever really get into a groove in his first NBA regular season (some of which can be attributed to an early injury that cost him important time), Toppin was terrific in his 11:39 off the bench, scoring eight points while adding three rebounds and a block.

Toppin also provided the most electrifying moment of the night, throwing down an alley-oop from Alec Burks that sent the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy.

After the game, head coach Tom Thibodeau praised the play of both Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, noting that while even though Quickley didn’t have a great shooting night (2-of-9), the duo brought plenty of energy when they took the floor in the spotlight of the NBA playoffs.

“I think Obi played very well,” Thibodeau said. “I thought [Quickley] didn’t shoot well, but both Obi and Quick have given us a lot. For two rookies to be playing in these playoff games and doing the things that they’re doing, I’m very pleased with them. I think they’ll continue to get better.

“There’s a big upside for both guys, they’ve got to continue to work and grow and learn. Both have been terrific all season long, from the moment they got here. I’m very pleased with them.”

Taj Gibson also gave the Knicks valuable minutes, scoring six points with seven rebounds, three steals, and a block in 30 minutes. But after the game, even he was talking about how special it is to see the Knicks’ young players in this kind of environment.

“The fun part about it is the young guys,” Gibson said. “It’s so fun, and even when they mess up or even when they do good, there’s just so much energy, because the way we have our young guys, they’re just so in-tuned with the game. They appreciate just being out there, but they watch so much film, and they’re just ready to go.

“I think this is a great atmosphere for them. I think the playoffs are going to make them even better, and our young guys, the sky’s the limit and I’m excited for them.”

Gibson also offered some sage advice for the youngsters when asked about what it was like to be on this stage in New York under Thibodeau’s leadership.

“It’s so surreal. Like I said when I talk to the young guys, when they wake up they may not know where their path is going to lead them or where the game is going to take them: just trust your heart,” Gibson said. “Don’t worry about what nobody is going to say, because I sat years ago as a rookie, maybe my second year, I sat every day with Thibs after practice and we talked about the Knicks, we talked about the battles, we talked about how great it would be to play there one day, and then for it to come true, and I’m playing with Derrick, who I’ve been playing with my whole career, and we have the same familiar faces but now we’re in New York City? God doesn’t make any mistakes, man. You’ve just got to follow your path.

“You’ve just got to believe in yourself, stay the course. The course is always going to be rocky, but you’ve just got to stay the course and believe in yourself, and truly believe, man, because it’s some magical stuff right now. I don’t know how to explain it.

“You’ve got to pinch yourself because you’re playing in the Garden. It’s one of the toughest places to play, but it’s one of the [most beautiful] places to play when you’re right. We’re trying to do some special things here, and right now, we’re laying the groundwork for it, and it’s an awesome feeling.”