2: Who will be on New York’s closing lineup?
Thibodeau has mostly gone with a “hot hand” approach when it comes to the team’s closing lineup, with the exception of the Knicks’ best players.
Brunson and Julius Randle start and finish each game on the floor, but the other three spots around them vary based on whoever is performing the best in each contest.
On one hand, it’s an advantage against opponents who won’t know which unit they’ll be facing during the fourth quarter on a nightly basis. On the other hand, it would be a positive development for a particular five-man group to gain familiarity and experience with each other in high-pressure situations.
Josh Hart led New York in fourth quarter playing time, often checking in towards the end of the third and spending the entire final 12 minutes on the court.
Hartenstein also closed out a fair share of contests at center. His superb screen-setting and underrated playmaking abilities sometimes fit better in a high-scoring affair compared to a grinding defensive matchup.
It’s not hard to imagine Quentin Grimes improving even further in his third year to make it harder for Hart to stay on the floor in crunch time. Quickley could also challenge RJ Barrett’s spot in the closing lineup, with his consistent defense and pull-up shooting proficiency sometimes outweighing Barrett’s physical drives to the rim and contact-drawing ability based on matchups.
No team’s crunch time lineup is set in stone for all 82 games, but gaining consistency in intense environments can help ensure that New York will rise to the occasion in the postseason frenzy.