“Randle is 3-for-15. Anyone, literally any sane coach, benches that player. Thibs is so damn stubborn.”
Anthony FreeMasons pointed that out, but oh boy, things would get even worse.
That 3-of-15 was Julius Randle’s shooting line in the loss against the Cavs on Wednesday. On Friday? Randle outdid himself by going 5-of-20 from the field and 1-of-9 from beyond the 3-point line to (not) help the Knicks (2-4) in their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks (3-2), 110-105.
This being Randle, of course, he still found a way to put up his customary double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He added five assists and a couple of steals to that line. He needed Tom Thibodeau’s hand as the coach gave him 39 minutes of run.
Might need to factory reset Julius Randle— jason concepcion (@netw3rk) November 4, 2023
That’s the only tweet/comment about Randle I could embed in this story because I’ve been told here at Posting & Toasting game recaps are G-rated.
Someone who needed—and literally is—a PG rating, however, was Jalen Brunson. Brunson who, for much that he tried, couldn’t go to sleep with a dub under his wing. The reason? Not saying it was only Randle, but hey, while I’m not the smartest person in the room that still makes some sense!
Brunson scored 45 points in 42 minutes. Three shy of a career-high. On the first In-Season Tournament game ever played. All of that... for nothing.
Quentin Grimes scored 17 points. Immanuel Quickley added 14 off the pine. Hell even Randle hit double-digits and bagged more than 15 with his 16. But again, he shot a putrid 5-of-20. That’s a stupid 25% accuracy from the field and a ridiculous 11% hit rate from three. Hit one more triple and the distance gets down to a couple of points instead of five. Hit two, and the Knicks reach 111 points on the night to Milwaukee’s 110.
A million things happen in a basketball game. There is context. There are situations. There is a universe out there playing out every millisecond. Randle was not the reason for the Knicks to lose, but he surely was a reason, and a big one for that matter.
Mitchell Robinson couldn’t find the rim failing to score a point (on four attempts) for the first time since last March. He had never before attempted more than three field goals without scoring at least once. (The big Cajun somehow pulled down 15 rebounds.)
The bizarreness kept piling up, didn’t it? Wait, there’s more.
Brook Lopez, who for some reason new Bucks coach Adrian Griffin had decided to use in the total opposite way to how he should have done in the first four games, came back to his senses and stationed the big twin in the paint, against the Knicks on this matchup of all fateful days.
The result? Brook blocked eight shots, something he had done four times before. One of those swats? Go ahead and watch.
BROOK LOPEZ WITH A CLUTCH BLOCK pic.twitter.com/ROdy7Imr2F— Ahn Fire Digital (@AhnFireDigital) November 4, 2023
The Knicks didn’t have RJ Barrett (sore left knee, they said) for the second consecutive game, and for the second consecutive game they started Josh Hart in his place.
No need to mention Hart is an extraordinary basketball player, but he’s been a career backup (45% of games started) for a reason and that’s precisely the role he excelled at last year in New York. Perhaps there is a better solution? I don’t have it, mind you, I’m just saying.
Hart played 36 minutes of 2-of-9 basketball. He was his usual self contributing all across the board and finishing with 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and one block. The bench, meanwhile, could have used some help.
Isaiah Hartenstein, Miles McBride, Donte DiVincenzo, and Quickley combined for a 21-10-1 line. Remove IQ and that goes down to 7-7, no dimes, three turnovers.
I found it funny when Julius Randle spoke after the game saying there might be too much iso-ball in his platter.
“I think there are some things that we can do different,” said Randle after the game. “For me personally, I think I can just play off the catch, play off the move a little bit more. Less isolation, less getting into pick-and-rolls, just playing on the move more, rather than just catching it and staring at bodies.”
One would assume, that Randle is getting forced into such situations by Thibs and his playbook.
Said Thibodeau postgame: “The game tells you what to do. So when you look at their defense, what were they doing? They were collapsing. They’ve got two seven-footers, so when they collapse, you have to trust the pass.”
I can’t help by read those quotes, listen to these two men, and find some conflicting messages being sent in opposite—but dangerously parallel— ways.
“[Randle has to] trust the process. If you’re open, you gotta shoot,” Thibodeau said. “Shoot it well—don’t miss short, be long. But I thought we created a lot of good, open looks. You can’t hesitate. You gotta let it go.”
Thibodeau summarized everything by simply saying “If you’re open, you shoot. If there’s three guys on you, you hit the open man. It’s simple, it’s not hard.” You could feel the irritation starting to catch up with him as he kept talking.
Randle got 39 minutes, and that probably won’t change any time soon, let alone if he (as we all expect) improves his game. Is Thibodeau reaching a breaking point? Does Thibodeau even have a breaking point? Not really, for the good or the bad. If you’re inside Thibs’ Trustees Circle, you’re cool.
Brunson backed up the lone All-Star Knickerbocker when discussing Randle’s slump, saying “It happens. It’s part of basketball.
“I mean, he’s missing shots but we’re still in games. He’s still contributing in a big way. I’m not going to get into all that stuff, but his heart’s still there. He just has to get over this little hump.”
"We just didn't bounce back quick enough"— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) November 4, 2023
Jalen Brunson speaks with the media following the Knicks first loss in the In-Season Tournament to the @Bucks @nyknicks | #NewYorkForever pic.twitter.com/eG4CW4jhqT
The Knicks recovered from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter. They took the lead with less than a minute left. They didn’t play a great game, but that’s been the case for nearly two weeks now and the dudes have still found ways to stay there fighting for a W more often than not. It’s just that little extra that is missing.
“There’s obviously a lot of things to take away from these games that are positive,” Brunson said. “But we still lose, there’s still a tally in the loss column.”
Six down (one down?), 76 to go. Still plenty of time to get things right.
Meet your superheroes again on Monday as the Knicks will host the visiting Clips at MSG for the grand debut of a James Harden clad in white Los Angeles-manufactured uniforms. Tip-off at 7:30 ET. Don’t miss it.