The Knicks need to expand their rotation

NBA: Utah Jazz at New York Knicks
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks continue to get banged up. Already without Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Mitchell Robinson, they will have to proceed with Game 3 against the Pacers without their defensive wingman OG Anunoby as he deals with a left hamstring strain he suffered late in Game 2.

The Knicks’ top scorers are hobbled

May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) celebrates in the fourth quarter  after scoring against the Indiana Pacers during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) celebrates in the fourth quarter after scoring against the Indiana Pacers during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Along with Anunoby, the team’s leader in Jalen Brunson missed all of the second quarter of Game 2 dealing with a sore foot. He would return in the second half and score 24 of his 29 points in that stretch, but his foot is something to keep a close eye on the rest of the way.

With the chance that Anunoby could miss an extended stretch of time, the Knicks’ already thin rotation just got even smaller. They finished Game 2 playing with essentially six healthy players, and while they were able to claw their way back from a 10-point deficit and win, that short of a rotation is likely not sustainable throughout the rest of the playoffs.

The Knicks will have to use players that were previously out of the rotation

New York Knicks guard Alec Burks (18) dribbles the ball up court in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena
New York Knicks guard Alec Burks (18) dribbles the ball up court in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena | Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With that being said, head coach Tom Thibodeau is going to have to reach beyond the depths of his bench and call on some guys who haven’t received a whole lot of playing time. Precious Achiuwa re-entered the rotation once Robinson went down, and now will likely play a bigger role with Anunoby out as well. But the Knicks still need some additional bench production.

Alec Burks briefly checked in late in the second quarter of Game 2 while Brunson was still in the locker room, but he didn’t see the court again the rest of the way. Now, he’s likely going to have to be fully re-inserted into the rotation and get some extra minutes to give some of the starters a rest. Jericho Sims is also an option to play in spurts in the event that one of Achiuwa or Isaiah Hartenstein finds themselves in foul trouble.

The bottom line, the Knicks will have to expand their rotation in order for them to not get beat by fatigue. The Pacers play with a fast pace offensively, and have lately featured a full-court press on defense in an effort to tire out the Knicks players, so they will need to be able to give guys a rest.

Josh Hart has played 48 minutes in back-to-back games, and with so many players out, it’s likely he will play all 48 minutes again. While he’s been able to produce at a high level despite the heavy workload, he will need to get some in-game breathers at some point, or else fatigue will catch up to him.

It will be interesting to see how the Knicks set up their rotation for the rest of the series and possibly beyond that as well. Game 3 against the Pacers tips off at 7 P.M. EST tonight and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

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