Tyrese Haliburton was there for the taking when the Knicks got on the clock with the No. 8 pick in November’s NBA draft.
Leon Rose and Co. instead opted for another sliding prospect, Obi Toppin, but Haliburton delivered a close-up view of what the Knicks passed on Friday night.
The point guard from Iowa State provided a spark off the bench with 16 points and hit a dagger 3 late to sink the Knicks’ comeback hopes as the Kings pulled out a 103-94 win at Golden 1 Center.
Haliburton, who wound up being the No. 12 pick by the Kings, was also active defensively, finishing the night with four blocks, two steals and five rebounds while shooting 7 of 13 from the field with two assists and three turnovers in 31 minutes.
“I guess it fueled me personally,” Haliburton said with a grin after the game when asked if playing the Knicks added any motivation. “But I love it here. I’m glad I slid to 12. … It’s not hard feelings or nothing, it is what it is. It’s a business, I don’t care.
“My job is to make them think about that when they go to sleep. So I’m just going to go out there and be the best player I can be. I’m not that big into that [motivation].”
Haliburton scored 11 points in the second quarter alone, showing off an ability to get to the rim, but his biggest shot came in the fourth quarter. Shortly after the Knicks had worked to cut a 10-point deficit to two, he drained his second 3-pointer of the night to put the Kings ahead 96-87 with 2:35 to go.
“He finds a way to make winning plays,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “He makes a fair share of mistakes as well for being a young player, but he finds a way and he plays with a confidence that’s contagious. It really makes it enjoyable to be out there on the court with him.”
Haliburton’s impact was felt on a night when Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, the point guard the Knicks ended up grabbing with the No. 25 pick, had quieter performances. Quickley, in particular, has opened eyes early in the season but he and Toppin combined for just 14 points Friday night.
Haliburton, meanwhile, entered the night averaging 11.1 points and 5.1 assists per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 49.2 percent from beyond the arc.
“Very good young player,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. “The thing I like about Haliburton is the versatility. He’s both good with the ball and can play off the ball.”