Julius Randle sits out crucial Knicks-Hawks game with sore right quadriceps

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Last season, everything went right for the New York Knicks and Julius Randle except for his poor playoff performance in a first-round exit against the Atlanta Hawks.

In a bizarre twist this season, their postseason fate will have to go through the Hawks. But Randle will be reduced to a spectator with sore right quadriceps when the Knicks fight for survival against the Hawks Tuesday night at the Garden. The Knicks are five games behind the Hawks for the final play-in spot with 11 games left. A loss will officially send the Knicks to the lottery.

The usually durable Randle will miss his first game of the season due to an injury. It came on the heels of an ugly shooting performance and another temper flare-up in the Knicks’ 108-93 loss to the Utah Jazz Sunday night.

“I really don’t know to be honest with you,” Randle told reporters when asked about the endgame incident that saw him shove Jazz center Rudy Gobert. “I was having a conversation with the official first, and then when I walked away, they kind of grabbed me, I guess.”

“They thought it was some confrontation between him and me from the play before or whatever it was, but it wasn’t. It was a little bit too much. But it’s fine. It’s not a big deal.”

The postgame commotion made his 13-point effort on a poor 6 of 21 shooting looks worse. When asked how he assessed Randle’s play against the Jazz, New York coach Tom Thibodeau skirted the question.

“I thought we fought, but it felt like we were a step behind most of the night,” Thibodeau said without directly answering the reporter’s question. “When you have a guy like [Donovan] Mitchell, who’s going to require a lot from you — you’re going to be blitzing. [Rudy] Gobert can put a lot of pressure on the rim and then [Jordan] Clarkson as well. He’s a big-time scorer.”

“When the two of them are on the floor, you got two guys that you really got put two on to, which will spread you out, and that probably hurt us some with the rebounding because you’re in rotation. It requires high energy, and I felt like, as a team, we were behind tonight.”

When pressed more about Randle’s postgame incident, Thibodeau deferred answering, saying he needed to watch the video first. Randle agreed with Thibodeau’s assessment that they were a step behind the Jazz but could not pinpoint why.

“I’m not sure. [Maybe] wear and tear of the season, from game to game, or whatever it is,” Randle said. “I’m not really sure. We’re usually a high-energy team, but for some reason, we weren’t [Sunday].”

His answer turned out to be an ominous sign.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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