The New York Knicks will be facing their hardest challenge of the season in Miami come Monday evening.
Actually, this is probably the toughest and most important assignment the franchise will be facing in a span of 10 years, easily.
Coincidentally, only two players on the Knicks roster have been doing it in the Association for so long: Derrick Rose and Evan Fournier. Not coincidentally, they have not featured heavily on Tom Thibodeau’s rotation for months on end, with Fournier the most used of the two but not even cracking 460 total minutes through the whole regular season.
Could that change in the postseason, entering a pivotal Game 4 of the second-round series against the Heat, no least!?
“Everything’s on the table,” Thibodeau said Sunday. “We’ll see how it unfolds.”
Tom Thibodeau was asked about playing Evan Fournier or Derrick Rose in Game 4. Both have been out of the rotation since early December. "Everything's on the table. We'll see how it unfolds," Thibodeau said— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 7, 2023
Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts: Eves and D-Rose are (maybe) coming (not happening) (probably.)
The cause for that to happen and for New York and Thibs to be forced into using one or the two of the veterans, even if the possibilities are quite remote is obvious: Immanuel Quickley is doubtful for G4 and at risk of missing the second game played in Miami this series.
Rose has played fewer than five total minutes after New Year’s Eve. Fournier has played way more than that, nearly 45, although all of that playing time came in a four-game span between G78-G82 of the regular season. The truth is that none of the two vets have been used in any steady way since the beginning of the 2023 calendar year.
This is no Kevin Love-type-cut-and-signed-by-Miami situation. The Heat didn’t find a gem buried in their bench and proceeded to unleash him against the Knicks. Not at all.
Love played a ton for the Cavs before they moved on at the end of January and decided to bench him for good before cutting him. Miami signed him after the All-Star break and instantly threw him into its daily lineup. The only similarity between Love, Fournier, and Rose, is that all of them have already cracked the 30-year barrier. That’s it.
The situation is not even comparable to that of Kyle Lowry. He only played 55 regular-season games (44 of them starting) but that was more because of injuries and conditioning gearing up for the playoffs than anything else. Again, no-comp.
Deuce McBride makes the most sense in the event of IQ missing Monday’s affair. Hell, even giving Quentin Grimes a larger role with more minutes and, why not, putting him back in the starting five in exchange for Josh Hart might be the most optimal tweak.
Our own Joe Flynn wrote about the news a few hours ago and shared his thoughts about what he believes Thibs should do in Game 4.
The most obvious solution if Quickley can’t go would be to hand his backup PG minutes to Miles McBride. Deuce was very good in a limited role in the first round, and he has typically been the first guard in the rotation when someone is hurt. However, the head coach has been hesitant to make the moves that worked so well for his team in the regular season — for example, starting Quentin Grimes. My guess is he’ll try to wring more minutes out of a hobbled Jalen Brunson in Game 4.
Speaking of Grimes...
What is the deal with Quentin Grimes and his “manager”?
As if making it to the postseason wasn’t enough... As if earning the right to be part of a semi-finals matchup... As if all of that wasn’t already enough for all of us inhabiting Knickerbocker Land, social media drama popped up on Sunday to wrap up a week that New York opened leading Miami 1-0 but closed trailing the Heat 1-2 and having to play another game on the road.
I can’t confirm it because I can’t see the tweet with my own naked eyes because “Matthew Z.” aka “@mattkeepgoing” on Twitter has a protected/locked account so only elite members can peep at what he types. I’m relying on the very clever folks from the New York Post, which claim (confirmed elsewhere, just in case you aren’t an NYP truther) that this fella Matthew, reportedly Grimes’ “business manager,” posted a two-word message reading “Free QG” following the Knicks loss against the Heat on Saturday. Welp.
According to the New York Post, Grimes’ manager is “known to be Matt Evans,” whose the second-year player has known “since he was a teenager growing up in the Houston area.”
After the tweet grabbed more eyeballs than his writer expected, Matty Z. went dark and changed his bio from referencing Grimes and being his manager to just “Keep Goin,” although he still boasts a header image of QG guarding LeBron James—for what that’s worth.
Thibs left the door open for the potential return of Rose/Fournier, but he also touched on Grimes’ role and how it might be expanded whether or not IQ is available to play Monday, mainly flipping Grimes for Hart in the starting lineup.
“When you get to the playoffs, you’re looking at matchups,” Thibodeau said. “When a guy comes back from an injury, is he completely healthy coming back?” he pondered. “So you look at all aspects of it—In some ways, it could be better, it could impact another area. The bottom line is we all have to play a lot better.”
Julius Randle spoke on Sunday ahead of Game 4
The All-Star forward of the Knicks talked to some reporters via conference call on Sunday ahead of New York’s Game 4, scheduled to tip-off at 7:30 ET on Monday at the Kaseya Center in South Beach.
Something that was clearly visible on Saturday’s loss to Miami was how the Heat completely out-hustled the Knicks. Asked about that, Randle said that it’s just the result of Miami being “more aggressive” and trying to bounce back.
“Typically the most aggressive team wins,” he said. “They [had] more of an edge coming off a loss, so hopefully we come out like that [on Monday].”
"…The Julius Randle/Bam Adebayo matchup: If Julius Randle doesn't—not win the matchup—dominate the matchup, the Knicks have no chance. Because the perimeter people…with Miami are better scorers & at times can be better players…even without Herro…& Oladipo…"— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) May 8, 2023
—TNT Kenny Smith pic.twitter.com/H2bj6rXexU
Randle also said that he is “not really concerned” about his one-on-one matchup with Bam Adebayo. “It’s more about when the defense collapses, being able to make plays. They’re an excellent halfcourt defensive team.”
Losing on Monday would put the Knicks in a precarious situation right before returning to MSG next Wednesday. “We’re confident,” said Randle. “It’s just, we gotta execute.”
Only 13 teams entering a Game 5 down 1-3 have gone on to advance in the past. 13 of 270, that is. For you math wiz at home, that’s a 4.8% chance of advancing if New York losses tonight. For you visual learners, this is how it would look on Wednesday.
What the Knicks will be facing if they fall down 1-3 against Miami in their second-round series with a loss later today. Sheesh... pic.twitter.com/l0TnfhMlCg— Antonio Losada (@chapulana) May 8, 2023
“Come out with a certain level of aggression, physicality and find a way to win a game. It’s not going to be easy,” Randle acknowledged.
“We got good looks when we executed properly,” Randle added. “Getting the ball into the paint, they’re an over-help team and they’ll collapse. When we do that, we’re confident about the looks we’re getting and we’re confident about our ability to knock those down.”
That said, Randle also conceded that he “has to do a better job of finding ways to execute off of that,” before assuring that he “will be fine.”
Finally, Randle said that the Knicks have “learned from the game before” but let those talking to him know that “one game is not going to determine how we feel for the next game or what we think the future’s going to be.” Randle reasoned that “every game is different,” that the team “have to treat it as such,” and that they will ”do our best to prepare for each game.”