You knew this was going to be a stylish Garden evening for point guards when Walt Frazier walked out of the Friday night cold, into the arena in his full-length, white fur coat he bought during the 1973 championship season.
“When it’s zero degrees, I like to bring out the minks,’’ Frazier said. “I wear it like Al Capone.’’
Hours later, the heat was brought again by the Knicks’ splendid rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley as he looks to carry on Frazier’s legacy where so many others have failed before.
After RJ Barrett dominated the first half, Quickley delivered a flurry of knockout blows to the Cavaliers, swimming his way to 19 points in the game’s final 12:40 in the Knicks’ feel-good 102-81 triumph.
With Quickley pulling a Portland, when the Kentucky product scored 21 fourth-quarter points, it will again stir social media to coax Tom Thibodeau to start him over Elfrid Payton (two points).
The Knicks coach would have loved to talk more about holding Cleveland to 81 points and 34.5 percent shooting, but received yet another nagging query about starting Quickley, who finished with 25.
“There’s always a thought with everything,’’ Thibodeau said. “Because someone doesn’t start it’s not that important to me. It’s having groups that play well together. And you can always finish with the guys who give you the best chance to win the game.”
As for Frazier, he said he is impressed with a young charge whom college scouts didn’t see as a point guard.
“He’s a bona fide point guard,’’ Frazier said later on the MSG Network telecast.
Frazier had an emotional moment before tip-off as his teammate of four seasons, Harthorne Wingo, who died last weekend at age 73, was honored in a mostly empty arena.
The public address announcer, Mike Walczewski, asked for a moment of silence for Wingo, calling him the “beloved member of the ’73 championship team and one of the most popular players in Knicks history. His unheralded crowd-pleasing actions and circus shots on the court endured him as a Garden fan favorite. His name, game and smile will forever be remembered.’’
There should have been old “Wing-Go’’ chants to follow the moment of silence, but this is the 2020-21 pandemic season with no fans.
Quickley has not yet played in front of a Garden crowd, but that will happen one day. The Garden would have erupted when Quickley, after being knocked to the floor on his stomach after burying a 3-pointer, did a swim move.
“I was just having fun — that’s all,’’ Quickley said.
Back from an eight-day western trip, the Knicks were slow out of the gate, as cold as Frazier before he put on his fur. The Knicks fell behind 14-3 after seven minutes. Their new All-Star-level forward Julius Randle didn’t look like the usual 6-foot-8 locomotive. He was a facilitator, failing to score a point or take a shot until midway through the second period.
“He set the tone with his playmaking,’’ Thibodeau said.
Then the Knicks got rolling. Barrett got going. It was the Barrett show in the first half and the Quickley show in the second half.
Barrett used his battering-ram style to get to the hoop and Cleveland’s guards Darius Garland and Collin Sexton were overpowered.
“He plays with a lot of poise, making the right reads,’’ Thibodeau said of Barrett’s 24-point, two-steal outing during which he got to the free-throw line for seven tries.
Barrett and Randle demoralized the Cavs with body blows before Quickley went in for the kill — 3-pointers, pull-ups, floaters in the final 13 minutes.
The Cavaliers closed to within 3 in the third quarter before the Knicks rose to take the night. Randle, who got more assertive, finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists. In his bust-out season, that is considered a quiet night.
The chemistry between Randle and Barrett that wasn’t evident in 2019-20 is showing in spades.
“We’ve played a year together and we’ve learned each other’s games,’’ Barrett said. “The more experience you get, the more you know their tendencies.”
After the Barrett-Randle barrage, Quickley took over. He punctuated the third quarter with a driving slam and a last-second trey. The players on the Knicks bench were tapping their heads in celebration as they carried a 72-55 lead after three.
To start the fourth, Quickley got a perfect pick from his overshadowed rookie Obi Toppin to drain an open 3. Quickley drilled two more treys, sprinkled in a pull-up jumper and delivered an alley-oop pass for an encore.
By the end, Quickley deserved a white fur coat.