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Tom Thibodeau after loss to Lakers: “We’ve got to shore up our defense”

LBJ came in rested and dumped the first triple-double of his season in his first visit to MSG since 2020

Los Angeles Lakers v New York Knicks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers (24-28) wrapped up their recreational trip around the Five Boroughs with a 129–123 victory in OT over the New York Knicks (27-25) on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Recreational, of course, because LeBron James and Anthony Davis—the only two players on the Lakers rosters whose names you will remember in 25 years—sat out their matchup against the Nets on Monday to freshly face the Knicks on Tuesday. This was, obviously, going to happen.

Tuesday marked James’ first MSG game in three years. The last time New York welcomed the King was all the way back in January 2020. We didn’t even know what COVID meant. Just imagine!

Not happy enough with pulling off the return—LBJ is 38 years old, in case you forgot—James went on to put up his first triple-double of the season to the tune of a 28-point, 11-dime, 10-rebound outing. Because MSG, I guess.

Lakers’ coach Darvin Ham said James missed Monday’s game with “left foot soreness”, though the Lakers listed his injury as an ankle. The Lakers put James in the injury report ahead of Tuesday’s game, listing him as “questionable” to play in the morning... then upgraded him to “available” after the warmups. Yeah, right.

James led his squad with 28 points while Davis added 27 for a combined 55 on the day.

Jalen Brunson put on a Herculean effort on Tuesday, but it’s not that one man can beat them all by himself. JB reached 37 points going a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe and 13-of-29 from the floor. He dished out six dimes. He stole a rock, blocked a shot, and did it freaking all. For none.

“We’re scoring plenty, that’s not our issue,” Tom Thibodeau said. “So we’ve got to shore up our defense.”

You bet, my man.

Julius Randle, who will be on his way to Salt Lake City in a few days, seemingly left MSG earlier than the All-Star break. Yes, he scored 23 and pulled down 12 boards to go with five dimes. Also yes, he went 6-of-19 from the field and 2-of-9 from three-point range. Not great.

Thibodeau brought back the old adage after enduring the OT loss. “The Garden’s always been that way,” he said. “I’ve experienced it both ways, and coming in with opposing teams it’s the most unique building in the league. Players love playing here. There’s no other fan base that’s like it. There’s no other building that’s like it. So we understand it.”

The Knicks started 2-16 from the field and had just five points halfway through the opening stanza. Go all the way to the end of regulation, and Thibs opted to hand Randle an iso in the final seconds just for the forward to not even put up a shot. Sheesh.

RJ Barrett scored 13 points and Quentin Grimes bagged 12. Isaiah Hartenstein, incredibly, scored 16 while grabbing 13 rebounds. Immanuel Quickley kept building his untradable asset resume by hitting 19 while dishing out eight dimes.

You already know who didn’t log a single minute of playing time, so we don’t even need to bother copy-pasting the DNP-CDs.

Shout-out LeBron. He will break the all-time scoring record at home. The plan worked. So dope.

Next game on Thursday as the Knickerbockers host the Miami Heat (29-23) at MSG. Tip-off at 7:30 EST. Don’t miss it.