Wednesday, January 26 2022
Airborne Julius Randle looking to pass against Bucks at MSG November 2021

Airborne Julius Randle looking to pass against Bucks at MSG November 2021

In the preseason, a couple of Knicks players suggested that it might take the starting unit 15-to-20 games to settle in and get used to each other.

Tom Thibodeau doesn’t buy that theory.

“You know what they say; when it’s 10 games, they say you need 20; when you say 20, they say you need 30; at 30 you say 40. And before you know it, the season is over. So that’s a bunch of bulls–t,” Thibodeau said after New York’s starters struggled against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Knicks’ starting five essentially has three new members: free agents Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier and returning center Mitchell Robinson, who missed much of last season due to injuries.

On Wednesday, the unit was outscored by nine in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Milwaukee’s lead was 18 at the time and grew to as much as 24 before a lineup of Knicks reserves willed them back into the game.

Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks, Obi Toppin, and Taj Gibson outscored Milwaukee by 19 over a nine-minute stretch, tying the game at 89-89 with five minutes to play.

The Bucks hit six threes in the next three minutes to take control of the game.

The loss laid bare the disparity between the Knicks reserves and the starters at the moment.

Last season, the Knicks won 41 games with a consistent starting unit. This season, the club is off to a solid start (7-5), but the starting five (Walker, Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Robinson) hasn’t produced.

As ESPN’s Tim Bontemps notes, the Knicks starters are being outscored by 14.4 points per 100 possessions and are allowing 119.3 points per 100 possessions.

Oct 9, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Knicks guard Kemba Walker (8) dribbles the ball as Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma (33) defends during the second quarter at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsOct 9, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Knicks guard Kemba Walker (8) dribbles the ball as Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma (33) defends during the second quarter at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 9, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Knicks guard Kemba Walker (8) dribbles the ball as Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma (33) defends during the second quarter at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s early, but that’s an alarming number. Last season, Thibodeau’s Knicks relied on their defense and depth to win 41 games.

You knew the defense may take a hit this season with the new personnel. But the Knicks have spent much of the year in the bottom third of the league for defensive rating.

It’s probably too early for Thibodeau to make any drastic lineup changes.

But if the starting unit continues to trend the wrong way, I don’t think he’ll stick with his starting five as long as he did last season.

One theme you’ve heard after a few Knicks losses this season: The team didn’t have the proper intensity at the beginning of the game or the second half. That seemed to be the case in the third quarter on Wednesday, when Milwaukee took control.

Rose was asked after the game, in general, if he felt that was an issue for New York.

“Yeah, we try to ease into games. We try to get a feel instead of being the aggressor,” Rose said. “And a lot of times you have to be the aggressor, you know? Let people know that you’re there, but that’s not only the starting five. That’s the bench coming in, playing lackadaisical, nonchalant.

“We picked it up late. But that’s everybody. We’re not that good to give people points or give them confidence. We gotta come out and be the hardest-playing team, and we gotta learn soon. It’s not gonna keep going win, loss, win, loss. If we keep doing this, you never know how the outcome may be.”

Rose was asked about Thibodeau’s message to the team after the loss. He said the message was similar to the one Thibodeau delivered before the game.

“Trying to pep talk guys to play harder,” Rose said. “And we gotta learn soon, sooner than later.”

Source: Yahoo Sports

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