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OK, Coach Thibs: Now what?
Your Knicks, sorry 105-94 losers to the Hawks, are in a 2-1 first-round playoff hole and looked nothing like your Knicks in a disastrous Game 3 loss at howling State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Now is the time for you to be that great coach your team needs.
Tom Thibodeau did Coach of the Year work during the regular season. It’s on him now to fix the current mess.
Julius Randle (2-for-15, 2-for-7 from downtown) and RJ Barrett (2-for-9, 1-for-5 from downtown), your Batman and Robin during the regular season, showed up as Fisher and Fizdale.
Randle shrinking in the face of constant double-teams — some triple-teams — will give your Knicks no chance to win this series.
These things can happen in the playoffs when the stakes are this high, even if no one could possibly have seen this coming.
But abandoning the proud culture of defense that Thibodeau has established and allowing Trae Young to pretty much do as he pleases has to be every bit as concerning, if not downright appalling to him.
“I thought our defense in Game 2 was vital because it got us into the open floor, it got us some easy buckets, and I didn’t think we ever really got our defense going in this game,” Thibodeau said. “We have to understand the intensity we have to bring to each game.”
Knicks fans can rest assured that Thibs will watch film until his eyes are bloodshot. He won’t stand for a performance like this any more than Pat Riley or Jeff Van Gundy would.
The Hawks — 16-for-27 from downtown — blew it open with a 29-13 second quarter, and Young (21 points, 14 assists) was laughing at the Knicks, mocking them, looking like a kid on the playground, his forays into the paint finding no resistance … and it is unacceptable. How about knocking him on his butt just once, just to send him a message that this is serious business, and to hell with the flagrant foul?
Because the very essence of the Thibodeau Knicks — grit and heart and fight — was mostly left behind at the Garden.
Road Kill instead.
Only Derrick Rose (13-for-21, 30 points, six assists) showed up as a willing veteran with the kind of mental toughness, and poise in the noise, and fearlessness it takes to try to silence a hostile crowd.
“Does anyone know how many fast break points we had today?” Rose said.
“I think that we didn’t look to push the open court enough,” Rose said.
Thibodeau smartly started Rose and Taj Gibson, his trusted veteran warriors who understand how to navigate the treacherous playoff waters, but why is Randle (13-for-44 for the series) drowning in the first playoffs of his career? The magnitude of the moment was never too big for Barrett (13-for-38 for the series) at Duke. What gives here, all of a sudden?
Apologies to Walt Frazier, but they were tentative and preventative on offense.
But his star player, who listened to a serenade of “overrated” at the foul line late in the third quarter, appears to be suffering a crisis of confidence.
Randle is simply not making quick decisions and getting rid of the ball early to be an effective facilitator. If John Collins or Danilo Gallinari are guarding him, and then Clint Capela comes over to hawk him, the Knicks are playing four-on-three for a split second.
They were the Brickerbockers Bros.
Thibodeau is the preparation master, so it is a reach to make the argument that he didn’t have his team prepared.
“When you get the second defender on the ball, their responsibility is to get rid of it, to make plays for their teammates,” Thibodeau said.
All the Knicks had on Friday night was themselves.
Knicks Against the World.
The World won, and it wasn’t close.
“Their attitude is very upbeat, and their work ethic is second to none,” Thibodeau said. “We’re disappointed, obviously, in the way we played, and we’ll take a good, hard look at it and come back with more determination in the next game. We have great belief in each other. We have to settle back down, and hopefully we’ll play better on Sunday.”
Your move, Coach.
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