Knicks: Tom Thibodeau’s flaws on display after being outcoached by Erik Spoelstra

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Entering Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, hopes were high for the Knicks to pull out a victory at home. Despite this, New York somehow lost the game, 108-101, due to some incredible coaching from Erik Spoelstra.

The Knicks started this game off hot, taking a 12-point lead at one point in the first half. However, once the second half started it was a completely different story as the Heat took over the game.

A game like this can go a long way in determining a series. The Knicks may have a better team than the Heat on paper, but the difference between Tom Thibodeau and Spoelstra as coaches could very well cost New York a chance at the Eastern Conference Finals.

Erik Spoelstra outcoached Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau in Game 1 semifinals

One of the biggest advantages the Knicks had over the Heat in the first half was their paint scoring. In this period of time, New York scored 40 of its 55 total points in the painted area. This was because of the way Miami consistently tried to trap the ball handler. However, once the second half started their entire defensive scheme changed.

Instead of trying to trap, Miami was instead far more lenient on the perimeter and instead began to pack the paint, forcing the Knicks to shoot threes. This must have been an easy decision for Spoelstra to make considering that New York shot 3-for-16 from deep in the first half.

Following this adjustment, the Knicks’ offense almost entirely shut down. In the second half, New York would score just 22 points in the paint on a much lower percentage and would shoot 4-for-18 from beyond the arc.

This adjustment changed the temp of the game and New York simply couldn’t work around it. Not only did they continuously settle for threes, but their offense looked lost at times which is just unacceptable.

In addition to this, Spoelstra switching Jimmy Butler onto Jalen Brunson to start the third quarter was simply a genius move. He knows that Brunson is the Knicks’ only consistent shot creator with Julius Randle out and he took advantage of it.

Even smaller adjustments such as when Spoelstra noticed the Knicks weren’t getting back defensively and the Heat scored eight straight points off of full court passes made a huge difference in turning things around. This sort of coaching is what will always elevate a mediocre team to a great one.

Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau must be much better heading into Game 2

While Thibodeau’s coaching may not have cost the Knicks this win, as that falls on their complete lack of an ability to hit a three, he certainly didn’t help. His rotations made no sense at times, he consistently ran the same dribble handoff between Brunson and Robinson that the Heat read time and time again, and his failure to take advantage of opportunities down the stretch killed the Knicks’ chances of coming back.

All due respect to Jimmy Butler and his ability to stay in the game despite being hurt, but how on Earth does Thibodeau not attack a man playing on one foot offensively? Thibodeau is a very fine, even great defensive coach, but to not make any adjustments on offense hurt the Knicks big time.

Thibodeau is infamous for not making big-time adjustments in the playoffs or even the regular season, but that simply can’t happen anymore. Thibs has been coaching in the league for well over 30 years now, if he doesn’t learn from his mistakes then things will get very ugly for New York.