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New York Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson is clearly an extension of Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and everybody knows Julius Randle has the bright green light to shoot the basketball. However, the personnel the Knicks have allowed for Randle to be himself and play his game even when he starts being erratic with questionable decision making on offense. I mean no player is perfect right?
Sometimes Randle still gets carried away with little things like arguing with the referee, which is still inexcusable when technical fouls are issued. But some of Randle’s other mental lapses on the court usually stems from being fatigued due to Thibodeau not making a simple timely rotational substitutions. There are times in the fourth quarter where Brunson and Randle look spent and exhausted. Opposing teams that are fresher with more energy see the fatigue in Brunson and Randle’s body language, therefore, opposing coaches will attempt to press, double team, and trap, causing forced and uncharacteristically unforced turnovers by Brunson and ill advised passes from Randle.
The Ultimate Closeout At TD Garden.
However, things were a little different on Thursday night in Boston. On national television, the Knicks played the #1 team in the NBA on the road and came away with a physical and well-deserved victory in overtime 120-117.
Could this road victory against the 2022 NBA Finals contestant spark a different sense of confidence for the Knicks going forward? It’s definitely possible, especially since Jayson Tatum once stated a loss to the Knicks on January 6th 2022 at Madison Square Garden, due to RJ Barret’s buzzer beater, was the Celtics lowest moment of the 2022 NBA Season. That prior heartbreaking loss at the hands of RJ Barrett’s bank-shot three pointer last season allegedly was the catalyst for the Celtics to will their way to the 2022 NBA Finals.
With that being said, here we all are a full year later witnessing the Knicks and Celtics battle it out. However, this recent game was at the TD Garden. With 28.1-seconds left in overtime, RJ Barrett received a pass from Jalen Brunson in the corner, Barrett calmly swished a three pointer and held his follow through in front of the Boston Celtics bench and a devastated TD Garden crowd. Knicks then took a 116-115 lead. Jalen Brown scored a baseline driving layup next posession, then Julius Randle nailed two clutch free throws the following Knicks possession. Jalen Brown got fouled by Brunson during the Celtics next possession and bricked two pressure free throws. Next Knicks possession, RJ Barrett got fouled and did the complete opposite of Jalen Brown and calmly sank two pressure free throws to put the Knicks up 120-117 in OT. Knicks won by that score, giving Boston their third straight loss.
Julius Randle Closing & Tom Thibodeau Improving Rotation Strategy, Are They For Real?
The Knicks last two victories came against two playoff contenders. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics both lost to The New York Knicks respectively. In both of those games, Julius Randle emerged as an improved closer. During the Boston Celtics overtime victory, Julius Randle continued being the catalyst for the Knicks by making hockey assists, hitting clutch three pointers, hitting clutch free throws, and playing solid defense to the best of his ability. While doing all those things, yes Randle was tired, however, the fatigue wasn’t detrimental to where he began making tons of mental mistakes on both ends of the court. Tom Thibodeau allowed the Knicks bench to play a little longer earlier in the game due to how well the second unit performed led by Immanuel Quickley. This sudden gained trust in the bench made all the difference for keeping Randle, Brunson, and RJ Barrett fresh in an intense road overtime game.
RJ Barrett Does It Again And It Wasn’t Luck This Time!
A year ago, many called RJ Barrett’s game winner against the Celtics at MSG a fluke. However, during the recent Knicks Thursday night victory in Boston, RJ Barrett calmly sank a corner three pointer and the ball didn’t even touch rim. Barrett also went on to nail two clutch free throws which put the Celtics down 120-117, the same score the New York Knicks ended up winning by. RJ Barrett displayed true mental toughness in OT especially after struggling earlier in the game with his shooting and close range finishing at the rim. This kind of performance is excellent for a young player’s psyche late in future close games. This also bodes well for Tom Thibodeau in terms of gaining trust in the Knicks second unit and also getting a better feel of when to pull the bench or stagger lineups for the sake of giving the starters enough rest going into the fourth quarter.