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Knicks will face Obi Toppin in the second round against Pacers

Obi Toppin, we meet again.

The Knicks drafted Toppin with the No. 8 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, only to trade him to the Indiana Pacers for a pair of second-round picks last summer.

And with the Knicks advancing to the second round of the playoffs after beating the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 1, they will now see their former high-flying forwards logging minutes for a Pacers team that took down the Milwaukee Bucks in six games in the first round defeated. .

“We always felt like he was a good player,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters Saturday after practice at the Tarrytown training facility. “I don’t think anything has changed.”

Toppin shot 40.6% from three during the regular season in his first year with the Pacers, six percent better than his best season with the Knicks (34.4%) and eight percent better than his average over his three years in New York (32.5%). %).

His averages of 10.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.6 steals per game are all career highs, and he played in all 82 games for the Pacers this season, starting 28 of them.

“He is very athletic, runs the floor great, shoots the ball, can score and has always been a gifted scorer,” Thibodeau said. “And like I said, we loved having him.”

Toppin couldn’t secure a bigger role in New York because All-Star forward Julius Randle played the lion’s share of minutes at the four.

“He was in a situation here where he was playing behind Julius,” Thibodeau said. “That was the story behind it.”

The mercurial former Knick now comes off the bench in Indiana, where the Pacers traded for perennial All-Star forward Pascal Siakam.

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Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton were teammates on Team USA’s 2024 FIBA ​​World Cup team. Brunson said he has a lot of respect for Haliburton after Thursday’s practice in Tarrytown.

“Great player. I didn’t really know him until – I knew him, we met a few times, but we only became friends last summer,” he said. “Great guy, great family. The experience last summer made him a from my friends. I have all the respect in the world for him and the way he plays the game. He just goes out there, plays the right way and does what he has to do.”

Haliburton earned a spot on Team USA’s 2024 Olympic roster in Paris. Brunson was named one of 28 finalists, but was left out of the selection.

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When asked if he would consider expanding the Knicks’ rotation to counter the Pacers’ pace of play, Thibodeau said with a smile, “That could be possible.”

The Knicks were already short for Randle (dislocated shoulder) and went into the first round against the 76ers. They then lost Bojan Bogdanovic for the remainder of the season due to a foot injury

Mitchell Robinson is also playing with an ankle injury. Precious Achiuwa was already in the rotation, but Alec Burks, who has yet to play any playoff minutes, could be in the game if Bogdanovic is out.

“Well, you also have to look at who they’re playing,” Thibodeau said. “So they’ve cut back on their rotation, so it’s all about matchups.”