The New York Knicks will have to retake home-court advantage from the paws of the Miami Heat through the weekend and next week.
Both squads split the first two games, turning their second-round series into a best-of-five war in which both teams have already won one battle, both staged at MSG.
With Game 3 scheduled for Saturday with a 3:30 pm E.T. tip-off at Miami’s Kaseya Center and the Knicks flying down to South Beach on Friday, here are some transcribed soundbites of what could be heard following both New York and the Heat’s practices on Thursday.
Tom Thibodeau about his rotations and Jalen Brunson’s health and
One of the talking points of the series against the Cavs was the decision of sitting Julius Randle for the entire fourth quarter of a pivotal game ending in victory for the Knicks.
Whether or not that happened because of Randle’s injured ankle or because Thibs came up with a genius idea was up for debate.
Something similar happened in Game 2 of the matchup against the Heat last Tuesday when Thibs decided to keep Quentin Grimes and Josh Hart on the court for most of the fourth stanza instead of boosting New York’s offense by playing RJ Barrett.
“You’re doing the things you think are going to help you win the game. Again they’re tough decisions,” Thibodeau said about Barrett’s benching. “So we’re asking everyone to sacrifice and put the team first. The group that was in there I thought gave us the best chance of doing that.”
Speaking about giving Grimes a larger role going forward after he lost his starting position to Hart following the former’s injury, Thibs said that “the more he plays, the more the rhythm will come,” about his second-year guard.
Grimes added that the Knicks just “were able to fight for every loose ball, came up with the 50/50 ones, and rebounded well.” He added that the team “kind of just locked in.”
Jalen Brunson "didn't do much" today at practice— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) May 4, 2023
Tom Thibodeau says he is day-to-day pic.twitter.com/7CCV8u1sE5
Speaking about Jalen Brunson’s status—JB was questionable to play on Tuesday with an injured ankle, although he eventually started and played through the four quarters—Thibs revealed that “Jalen didn’t do much today,” saying that the point guard is “day-to-day” entering the weekend.
Finally, Thibs also touched on Immanuel Quickley’s role and his postseason-low nine minutes played on Tuesday, the first time for him in single digits since Nov. 27.
“The thing is in Quick’s case, he’s done both,” Thibodeau said. “He’s played with the starters quite a bit, he’s played with the bench quite a bit...” Thibs started. ”He can play the point, can play the two... does everything. So don’t overthink it. Stay aggressive.”
Julius Randle about his recovery process and injuries suffered this postseason
Staying on the medical beat, Randle opened up about what he’s had to go through during the past few days and weeks getting back to the final five games of the regular season that he was forced to sit leading up to the playoffs.
“It’s not really the pain,” Randle said. “It’s the getting back on the court.”
For Randle, it was “not being able to do anything for a while and getting my conditioning back, getting the muscles firing back again.” The forward revealed that “mentally, it takes a toll on not only you, but my wife, my family, everybody in the organization. Thankfully for me, I have a great supporting cast of people who encourage me,” he added.
"RJ's been great, man. He's playing within himself, he's competing, he's focused."— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) May 4, 2023
Julius Randle on RJ Barrett's strong play: pic.twitter.com/kZb92PK6ZG
Randle also said that he “got a lot of respect for Jimmy,” who is also going through his own issues in the series against the Knicks after rolling his ankle with five minutes remaining in Game 1. Randle said that we all know “what type of player he is,” and that New York knows that “mentally, he’s going to be locked in and engaged regardless of how he feels and he’ll be great.” Randle added that the Knicks “just want to make it as hard as we can for him and just limit our mistakes on our end.”
The All-Star also made clear that “there was no way I was sitting out at all,” so expect more JR going forward no matter how his ankle feels.
Josh Hart about playing on the road and helping teammates grow their games
Hart was asked by some beat reporters about the Knicks’ play on the road this season, one of their best all-time.
New York has put up the best record away from MSG since the 1997 season. They earned 24 wins on the road, only topped by the Bucks, 76ers, Kings, and Celtics this year.
“I think when you go on the road, there are less distractions,” Hart said Thursday. “You’re not worried about family, tickets, what are you going to eat after the game. You have only basketball. So sometimes, you’re able to be locked in a little bit more.”
Hart also that Knicks fans “show up wherever we play.” Said Hart: “Whether that’s in Oklahoma City or gotta be down to Miami at the end of the year—we’re having ‘Let’s go Knicks’ chants. So I think it’s the camaraderie that we have been able to be locked into focus, and the next is the Knicks fanatics traveling and chilling out.”
Josh Hart sees 2 factors behind NYK’s success on road:— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 4, 2023
1. Fewer distractions
2. “We play for the Knicks. Knicks fans, they show up wherever we play. Whether it’s Oklahoma City… in Miami, at the end of the year, we were having ‘Let’s Go Knicks’ chants” pic.twitter.com/yuq0JXO0Li
Hart was also asked about how he can help other Knickerbockers improve their game and have a larger impact on the games they’re playing this postseason.
“There’s a lot of times where I have the ball after a defensive rebound, and I’m tunnel vision at the rim, and I’m missing [Quickley] when he’s wide open for corner threes or running in threes on that wing,” Hart said. “So we’ve gotta continue to find him when he’s open, continue to give him confidence, give the ball to him, and let him play his game, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Asked about Jimmy Butler and how to deal with him, Hart said that JB is “a winning player,” and “one of those guys that just has that warrior mentality, trying to will his team to win.”
“When he’s out there, neutralize that as best we can,” Hart added.