NEW YORK — The RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley return to Madison Square Garden went as expected: It was emotion-filled and had its moments but resulted in a decisive win for the Knicks, whose 126-100 victory over the Raptors closed the chapter on its former players on Saturday.
Knicks fans in a sellout crowd of 19,812 cheered Barrett and Quickley when they were announced for pregame introductions. The Knicks even showed a tribute video thanking their former first-round picks for their contributions over the years.
They did not give such a tribute, for example, to Kristaps Porzingis, when he returned to New York after his trade to the Dallas Mavericks.
Barrett was unsure what kind of reception he would get from the fans in his return, but it was clear the game meant more to the pair of players who were traded together to the Raptors for OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn.
Quickley, for example, made his first 3-pointer 41 seconds into the first quarter, then skipped up the floor in the fashion that became his signature during his time in New York.
Moments later, Barrett cut backdoor and threw down a one-handed dunk before flexing on the Knicks crowd and aggressively dapping-up his teammate.
At the 1:17 mark of the first quarter, Quickley made a layup then smiled in the direction of Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks’ bench on his way back on defense.
“I saw Quick bringing the ball up in a Raptors jersey and it kinda tripped me out cause I wasn’t used to it,” Julius Randle said. “But once we got settled in, everything evened out.”
And then the Knicks woke up. The Raptors took an 11-point lead at the 4:55 mark of the first quarter, but the Knicks tied the game at 31 apiece entering the second, then blew Toronto out of the water in the third.
Barrett (20 points) and Quickley (12) combined for 15 first-quarter points but finished the game with just 32 combined after Thibodeau made defensive adjustments.
Meanwhile, Randle recorded his 14th career triple-double with 18 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists and Jalen Brunson recorded 38 points and nine assists, including a 5-of-11 shooting night from downtown.
Against his former team, Achiuwa posted a double-double off the bench with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Knicks won their ninth game in the 11 they’ve played since the Anunoby trade.
His impact was apparent, too.
Anunoby finished with just 14 points but took turns guarding Barrett, Scottie Barnes and even, at times, Quickley.
Barnes, the Raptors’ franchise centerpiece, shot just 4 of 14 from the field for nine points.
The Anunoby trade has been well worth the cost, even if the price appeared steep. The Knicks parted ways with their two best first-round picks in the last five years, maybe even since they selected Porzingis fourth-overall in 2015.
“New York should be extremely proud of these guys,” Randle told the crowd in his walk-off interview after the victory, drawing even more applause. “I’m serious.”
Next up, the Knicks travel to Brooklyn to play the Nets at Barclays Center on Tuesday. Then, they return to Madison Square Garden to host the defending champion Denver Nuggets on Thursday.