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Tom Thibodeau on facing Bucks, starting Quentin Grimes

Team playing well = Quentin Grimes starting games

The New York Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks will square off tonight to punch their tickets to Las Vegas and the Final Four of the first-ever In-Season Tournament.

Expanding on Julius Randle’s comments made on Monday about having to face a stronger opponent in Milwaukee instead of a lesser squad had the Knicks failed to qualify for the IST Quarterfinals as the wild-card team, Tom Thibodeau sounded as happy as he’s ever done ahead of today’s game.

“I think you have to choose how you want to frame it in your own mind, and I like to think of the positive of it,” Thibodeau said. “I think when you’re facing those types of teams, it makes you better. And so that’s the way I want to approach it, and so if we’re doing the right things, good things are gonna happen.”

“Every season, there’s a number of different things that happen. And then it’s always how quickly can you adapt,” Thibodeau added. “The things that we can control are how we get ready. Every game, there shouldn’t be a change. If you want to be a consistent team, that’s how you have to approach it, and that’s what we try to focus on each and every day so there are really no adjustments.”

Thibs didn’t want to even think about anything that would come after today’s game, simply stating, “The tournament itself has been great for [everybody]—for us, stay focused on what you have to stay focused on.”

Thibs also revealed that Evan Fournier and DaQuan Jeffries didn’t practice on Monday, 24 hours before today’s tip-off in Milwaukee. The former doesn’t need the half-milli, the latter wouldn’t reject it. Both have about the same chances of playing.

Quentin Grimes, a surefire starter as long as the team keeps playing well

The coach was also asked about the ongoing Quentin Grimes slump and whether or not he’s at least entertained the idea of demoting him to the second unit instead of keeping him on the starting lineup.

In fairness, Thibs has already lowered Grimes’ minutes for the last few games including benching him in the final minutes of a few fourth quarters of late.

“My thing is, I’m worried about the team playing well,” Thibodeau said. “So, I look at, how are we playing? If one guy doesn’t make shots, that’s part of the game. What are the other things that you’re doing when you’re on the floor? Is the unit performing well? To me, it’s not about individuals. It’s about, how is the unit performing? And if the unit is performing well, then you’re fine, right?”

All of that was about Grimes’ role in the team and the Knicks’ first unit. Thibodeau added, “[Grimes] can help a lot, and he does. He’s guarding a lot of different players for us. That’s a very important role for our team.”

Unsurprisingly surprisingly, Thibs didn’t mention any plus/minus or net rating numbers when discussing Grimes, something he’s done in the past with the likes of Fournier. That might have something to do with the Knicks having a minus-2.2 net rating with Grimes in, per Zach Braziler of the New York Post.

“The thing is... it’s how it works together because we’re not playing tennis,” Thibs said. “It’s like, how’s the group functioning when you’re on the floor? And that’s what I look at.”

Donte DiVincenzo has been the main replacement for Grimes in those fourth-quarter minutes. Thibs acknowledged DDV “complements our primary scorers great because he can stretch the floor and he does a little bit of everything—handles the ball, he makes plays, he rebounds the ball well for his size.

“That group plays fast, it gives us speed. So he’s done a really good job, but that is that entire unit that’s really done a good job.”

No matter who starts or finishes games, Thibs made clear after Monday’s practice that if Grimes keeps starting games, that's because he’s earned and on pure merit.

“You don’t get here by accident,” Thibs said, per Kristian Winfield. “This guy is already proven he’s a terrific shooter. So if you’re open, shoot it, let it go. As long as he shoots it well, he’s on target, he’s back rim.

“Let it go.”