The New York Knicks (39-30) entered the Cryptodome having lost consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 31 and couldn’t do anything to prevent the Los Angeles Clippers from making it three straight, falling 106-95 Saturday afternoon while falling percentage points behind the Nets and into sixth in the Eastern standings. The West Coast breeze is doing New York no good.
“I thought we played really well in the first half,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “For the most part, we played well in the third quarter, but I didn’t like the way we started the fourth. We’ve got to understand that the intensity of the fourth quarter is different. So [we need to] be ready to handle that.” Thibodeau acknowledged that “right now, our margin of error is small” when asked about the Knicks' ongoing three-game losing skid.
Jalen Brunson missed Saturday’s game, although the X-ray on his injured foot came back negative. Thibs didn’t shed much light on the prognosis, but said Brunson is doing “a little better” while listing him as day-to-day. Immanuel Quickley was given the starting nod at the point once more and returned to the best version of himself, leading the Knicks with 26 points on 8 of 18 shooting. He also grabbed 10 boards for his third double-double of the season.
The rest of the squad? Plain bad. Julius Randle scored 19 points, RJ Barrett dropped 11, but no other Knick passed 10, with Obi Toppin and Josh Hart stopping right at that mark. Mitchell Robinson pulled down 14 boards. Hart got eight. Nobody dished more than four dimes (three players) for the Knicks, with two handing three. Deuce McBride played six minutes, scored two points, swatted one shot and committed a theft — hooray!
“I mean, I wasn’t good today. I was bad. But the officials today? Pssh . . . I’ll just leave it at that,” Randle said. “All you gotta do is watch the game and see what you see going on.” All of this came, of course, from what happened at the end of the third period with just 0.1 seconds left on the clock. Randle elbowed Mason Plumlee, was handed a tech and had to be calmed and restrained by members of the Knicks’ bench. Randle didn’t make it back onto the court until the clock read 6:28 in the fourth and finished Saturday with as many personal fouls as shots made: five. The Clips scored the two+one freebies after that tech, took a 76-74 lead and never again trailed on the way to their 36th victory of the season.
Asked about the physicality of yesterday’s clash between Knicks and Clippers, Randle said that “there was fucking blood out there, for sure,” adding that he “ain’t rolling with that.”
“They got their lick, I got my lick back. That’s all it was,” Randle finished. Thibs agreed, saying that his forward got caught in the “heat of the battle” and that “sometimes you can get frustrated, it’s an emotional game, [but you] just keep playing.”
Randle was visibly agitated on the sidelines after that elbow on Plumlee, although he said the Knicks staff just “thought I was trying to walk to the officials,” then explaining that he ”was just trying to walk off, blow some steam,” instead of seeking any further confrontation.
“They were just doing their job, trying to protect me. When you’re in the middle of that, and you’re getting held back, frustrated, trying to walk off... it was just miscommunication, that’s all it is.” Whatever fostered that action-reaction, you will read about all sorts of causes. Some folks are pegging Randle’s frustration at his poor performance on Saturday. Others to his tiredness.
Thibs wasn’t buying any of it: “I’m also not buying into if a guy is missing shots, that means he’s tired,” said the coach. He also added that “there are different ways to give days off, and the thing with Julius is he works hard so that he can handle these minutes, and he wants to play these games.” Rule out Randle sitting out Sunday’s back-to-back finale against the Lakers, then.
Speaking of the Lakers, they’re hosting your Knickerbockers on a reverse three-game winning streak of their own, while currently ninth in the West at 33-34.
Knicks. Lakers. Tip-off at 9:00 ET. Don’t miss it.