Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau needs to pick it up in NBA playoff

Even if he loses each single recreation he coaches for the Knicks from right here to eternity, Tom Thibodeau ought to by no means be allowed to pay for an additional meal, or chilly drink, or tank of fuel wherever in the tri-state space. He has already executed sufficient for a beaten-down metropolis and fan base to earn a full scholarship for the remainder of his life.

Without Thibodeau, the Knicks would have by no means reached the playoffs. They would have by no means hosted a first-round collection, or created a community experience in the Garden on Sunday night time that uplifted New York and transcended the sport by a couple of nation miles. The man has had a dream season in Year 1 of his dream job.

But … and also you knew that “but” was coming … Thibodeau didn’t honor a head coach’s chief accountability in Game 1 towards the Hawks — particularly, to put his or her crew in the very best place to win. He didn’t lose Game 1. He simply didn’t do every part he might to win it.

For starters, there’s the starter, Elfrid Payton, who ought to now not be beginning, as my colleague Mike Vaccaro eloquently explained last week, in the uncommon newspaper column that was absolutely met with 100% fan-base approval. Payton all however engraved an invite for his coach to bench him for Game 2 after he drifted aimlessly throughout eight Game 1 minutes, trying as misplaced in his first profession playoff recreation as a first-time vacationer stumbling round Times Square.

Of course, it’s not nearly one best-of-seven recreation, however about the way in which Payton has performed during the last 5 weeks. Including Sunday night time, the purpose guard has failed to rating in double figures in 16 of his final 17 video games, taking pictures 35-for-103 from the ground. His plus/minus over his final eight video games is -56. If Thibodeau goes to pull Payton 4:15 into the primary quarter, and three:46 into the third quarter, with out reinserting him into both half, then he’s conceding that he made a mistake beginning him in the primary place.

Thibs wouldn’t verify the apparent Monday in his Zoom convention name with reporters, dodging a direct reply to the query of whether or not Frank Ntilikina or another person will open on the level Wednesday night time. He defaulted to coach-speak bunk about placing the very best gamers on the ground and having confidence in everybody on his roster. In the postseason, Thibodeau is aware of you may solely trust in the gamers who encourage it. His loyalty to Payton is odd as a result of he has already proved he would bench his mom if it meant barely bettering his odds of victory. Remember, he successfully ran off Austin Rivers, the son of Doc Rivers, Thibs’ longtime good friend and former boss with the champion Celtics of 2008.

Tom Thibodeau has to be better for the Knicks in Game 2.
Tom Thibodeau has to be higher for the Knicks in Game 2.
NBAE by way of Getty Images

Chances are, Thibodeau will notice that he has to make a lineup change after Payton principally disqualified himself from Game 2. No, that doesn’t change what occurred in Game 1, when Trae Young smoked everybody the Knicks placed on him, shredding the Thibs recreation plan to the tune of 32 factors and 10 assists. When an ice-cold Ntilikina was thrown out there to shut down Young in the ultimate seconds, the Knicks didn’t have a prayer of holding it a tied recreation.

They did have a shot at forcing time beyond regulation, nonetheless, if they may execute a play inside nine-tenths of a second. Thibodeau referred to as for Alec Burks, who was completely on fireplace, to throw the ball to Randle, who was completely not on fireplace. If Randle had made the clear catch and sank a buzzer-beating turnaround, we’d all be saying and writing fantastic issues concerning the Thibs-Randle dynamic, about how the coach trusted his franchise participant in the most important second, even on an evening when that franchise participant missed 17 of 23 pictures.

But that didn’t occur. And when issues don’t occur in New York, individuals get hit, and difficult questions get requested. Questions like, Why was Burks eliminated as an choice on that remaining play, because the inbound passer, when he had scored 27 factors in 26 minutes, and 18 of these factors in the fourth quarter?

All throughout the board, the Knicks want to make changes earlier than they see the Hawks once more. Randle has to be Randle. Reggie Bullock needs to shoot the ball like he did in the common season. RJ Barrett has to make that steal he whiffed on earlier than Bogdan Bogdanovic’s game-tying 3.

“We have to make some corrections and be ready for Game 2,” Thibodeau stated.

Numerous guys want to be higher for the Knicks on Wednesday night time. Including their nice head coach.

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