Did Tom Thibodeau just build a Knicks mirage?

The Knicks’ 41-31 regular-season report was good for fourth within the East – Twelfth-best within the NBA. It was a sensational turnaround from a membership that amassed 38 wins mixed the earlier two seasons.

The query is whether or not 41-31 is indicative of how Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks fare of their first playoffs sequence since 2013 – a seven-season drought.

Perhaps reducing expectations for his finest buddy, former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy says the Hawks are a higher group on paper. And he warned the Knicks’ report could possibly be inflated due to the tactic wherein Thibodeau operates the common season.

Every recreation coached by Thibodeau is ready for prefer it’s the Super Bowl — whether or not it’s mid-January in Cleveland or the Eastern Conference Finals in June. Julius Randle has famous that element on a number of events.

It’s not precisely how different NBA coaches do it – not within the load-management period heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Van Gundy instructed The Post he believes Atlanta must be barely favored, however added “I love the perimeter depth and defensive intensity of the Knicks. It should be a great series.”

Tom Thibodeau with Knicks veterans Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose
Tom Thibodeau with Knicks veterans Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose
NBAE through Getty Images

Van Gundy labored the Knicks-Celtics regular-season finale when Boston was with out their prime seven gamers – six being rested for the play-in occasion.

Across the season, the Knicks encountered groups resting gamers. In their win over Milwaukee, the Bucks gave a trip day to 4 of their 5 starters, together with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.

Now everybody’s at full energy and full throttle. Hawks coach Nate McMillan has a week to organize.

“Atlanta has more talent,” Van Gundy mentioned on Sunday’s broadcast. “The Knicks defensively are really good. They play their best players a lot of minutes. Their guys play. The Knicks don’t take nights off. In the playoffs, that all goes away. Everybody is locked in and everybody plays. There’s no load management. It will be interesting to see if the Knicks have enough in a playoff scenario to hold up.”

As regular, Van Gundy hit a residence run along with his sentiment. And it’s not a knock on Thibodeau. He doesn’t know every other method however to play to win that evening, to organize as if it’s the penultimate recreation.

In Chicago, Thibodeau was knocked by the media for burning his golf equipment out within the common season. He’s by no means made the NBA Finals as a head coach.

Thibodeau’s all-time playoff report is 24-32 (.429). That pales compared to his all-time regular-season report of 393-277  (.587).

In his 5 seasons in Chicago, Thibodeau was knocked out of the primary spherical twice. But apparently he made the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season with the Bulls in 2010-11 when he posted a 62-win season and received Coach of the Year.

Thibodeau has by no means gotten that far once more — his final playoff look was in 2018 with Minnesota, dropping 4-1 within the first spherical to Houston after breaking the Wolves’ 14-year playoff drought. 

Derrick Rose, on his facet in Chicago, Minnesota and now right here, was harm for a few of these Bulls postseasons. Segments of the Chicago media unfairly blamed Thibodeau for Rose’s knee accidents due to overwork. (Rose has repeatedly absolved Thibodeau).

Randle and RJ Barrett, the Knicks’ two finest gamers, are one and two in most minutes performed within the NBA this season. Randle led the league with 2,629. Barrett was second with 2,511.

Randle missed just one recreation. Barrett, 20, performed in all 72 video games – certainly one of solely 5 starters within the league to take action. They’ve been iron males.

The Knicks’ sturdiness — and depth — was the important thing to 41-31. The Knicks’ solely damage pitfall was the damaged hand and damaged foot for beginning heart Mitchell Robinson. The gritty heart tandem of Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson crammed in bravely – they usually’ve added a depth piece in shot-blocker Norvel Pelle.

As such, Thibodeau might follow the identical beginning four-man nucleus he rode the complete season in Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, Barrett and Randle – all gamers getting back from final season’s 21-45 shame.

The Knicks will look to show none of this was a pandemic mirage and try and turn into the hardest out within the East. The pandemic circumstances labored of their favor – hermetically sealed from the standard distractions of enjoying in massive, unhealthy New York.

There have been no participant appearances in Manhattan – or nightlife. There was no going out on the highway, as an alternative caught within the lodge collectively. There was not one of the regular massive throng of New York media within the locker room this season, permitting this membership to be as close-knit as any Knicks group in historical past.

In truth, Knicks media entry was extraordinarily restricted with reporters not getting access to any of the group of gamers who might have groused about their roles (Kevin Knox, the departed Austin Rivers, Frank Ntilikina, Payton).

According to sources, Knicks senior VP William Wesley believes the New York media’s intrusion performed a function of their troubles in previous years. Indeed, the Zoom period suited James Dolan’s Knicks effectively.

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett lead the league in minutes played
Julius Randle and RJ Barrett lead the league in minutes performed
Getty Images

Additionally, Barrett raised a longstanding level that may have helped them. Barrett mentioned not having followers on the Garden would work of their favor as a result of traditionally visiting gamers stand up on Broadway to carry out earlier than a jam-packed enviornment.

The Knicks crafted a good 25-11 residence report – the ultimate 22 video games at 10-percent capability (1,980). Now the playoffs start Sunday on the World’s Most Famous Arena. Thanks to Gov. Cuomo, the Garden will fill as much as about 13,000 followers.

Will the pandemic regular-season bubble burst?

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