The “We Want Quickley’’ chant began late in the first quarter when Sacramento was putting together a rare run.
With 2:44 left in the quarter, rookie Immanuel Quickley was inserted into the game and he didn’t disappoint the second giddy Garden gathering of the season.
In sparking the Knicks with 18 first-half points, Quickley led the offensive explosion in a 140-121 triumph over sagging Sacramento as the popular rookie point guard emerged from his recent slump.
Quickley finished with 25 points, hitting all 12 of his free throws. Along with Julius Randle, Quickley even heard “M-V-P’’ chants on another joyous evening before 2,000 fans who seemed to be chanting something all evening.
The Knicks’ 140 points were a season high and came against the NBA’s worst defensive team. The Knicks were the NBA’s least productive team offensively entering the game.
Randle, hearing M-V-P chants a second straight game, put together another bull-in-a-china-shop performance with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Alec Burks, piling it up mostly in fourth-quarter garbage time, racked up a season-high 24 points.
Derrick Rose made his first start of the season at point guard because of Elfrid Payton’s hamstring injury and added 18 points as the Knicks moved to one game below .500 at 16-17. The Kings (12-20) lost their ninth straight.
The Knicks put together a 77-point first-half, shooting 65.9 percent and staved off any Kings’ charge thereafter.
The Knicks almost got to 80 in that opening half but a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer by Reggie Bullock was waved off because he stepped on the sideline. However, the Knicks had plenty — a 77-63 lead.
Inserted into the starting lineup, Rose started the spree by ripping to the basket on the game’s first possession for a lefty layup.
Rose started the game with a flair, going 5-for-5 in the first quarter and finished with 13 first-half points. But the antsy, charged-up fans, with the Kings on an 11-0 run, began the Quickley chant.
When he entered late in the first quarter, the Kentucky rookie got to work, immediately draining a 3-pointer. He drew fouls, drained a floater and piled up 18 points in 9:36. He made of 4 of 6 baskets and all eight of his free throws.
Quickley’s 3-for-22 slump across the previous three games were put in the distance. As first reported by The Post, the NBA will not hold the Rising Stars Challenge for top rookies and sophomores, but will announce an honorary team. Quickley all but sealed his spot.
In another slap at Austin Rivers, Frank Ntilikina was placed back in the rotation with Payton out. Ntilikina, due to a sprained knee, COVID-19 protocols and being taken out of the rotation, hadn’t played in a game since Dec. 29.
He looked OK, too. He stole a ball from De’Aaron Fox to start a fast break and fed Quickley for a 3-pointer. In playing 8:58 in the first half, he also drained a 3-pointer.
The luminaries on the socially distanced celebrity row included CC Sabathia and rappers Jadakiss and Action Bronson.