Since losing last Wednesday and saying goodbye to their play-in tournament hopes, the New York Knicks have won four straight games. To no surprise, RJ Barrett’s paved the way for the Knicks with an average of 24.3 points over the team’s win streak. What is surprising, though, is that Tom Thibodeau seems to be finally catching on.
It started when both Julius Randle (quad) and Mitchell Robinson (back) were out for New York during the game against Charlotte on Mar. 23. Obi Toppin and rookie Jericho Sims made an appearance in the starting lineup. Toppin finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Sims had 10 points.
The 121-106 win against a young, exciting Hornets team was a turning point for the Knicks, who aren’t that different from Charlotte. It seems fitting that the streak started with a W against 2020-21 Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball.
That energy carried over for victories versus the Heat, Pistons, and Bulls. Although Thibodeau started his usual lineup against Detroit and Chicago, the younger players continued to receive increased minutes.
After the thrilling 109-104 win over the Bulls on Monday night in the second half of a back-to-back, Thibodeau made an interesting comment about the development of the younger players on New York’s roster.
It’s too little too late for Tom Thibodeau and the New York Knicks.
Seriously, Thibodeau? The coach echoed what fans have been screaming about all year long. It only took him 76 regular-season games (out of 82) to finally get it.
Barrett took over the game and finished with a team-high 28 points, while Alec Burks had 27. Toppin scored 17 off the bench (including three huge 3-pointers) and Robinson had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Ironically enough, former All-Star Randle had 13 rebounds and four assists, but he shot 1-of-9 from the field for five points.
Evan Fournier, who recently broke the franchise record for most threes made in a single season, shot 1-of-8 from the 3-point line for five points, too. It’s safe to say that those two players aren’t the reason why the Knicks won.
While it feels strange to write this, I do agree with Thibodeau’s comments, but don’t understand why the decisions that he made in Monday’s game didn’t necessarily reflect his words.
New York was up by one point with a little over three minutes left to play, and instead of keeping red-hot Toppin in the game, Thibodeau substituted Randle in for him. With Toppin being the better player last night, it didn’t make sense for Thibodeau to opt for Randle instead.
Yet that’s been the story of the season for New York, right? It’s why the Knicks are in the situation that they’re currently in. While their recent play has been a welcome surprise, it’s frustrating at the same time because players like Toppin (and even Miles McBride) could’ve benefitted from more time on the court all year long.
Hopefully, Thibodeau will use the team’s remaining six games as a chance to allow for the younger players to develop. And if he’s back at the helm next season, he needs to put his comments into practice before it’s too late (again).