Like the New York Knicks‘ second unit, coach Tom Thibodeau tried to hold everything together until he no longer could.
Thibodeau’s postgame presser started in a somber mood but ended in a fiery tone aimed to challenge his starters to get their acts together sooner rather than later.
“You know what they say â€” when itâ€™s 10 games, you say we need 20. When you get to 20, you say 30. When we get to 30, you say 40, and then before you know it, the seasonâ€™s over,” said Thibodeau referring to how much time do his starters need to jell. “So, that’s a bunch of bullâ€”t.â€
The scathing remarks came on the heels of an embarrassing performance by the starting unit in a 112-100 loss to the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks, who played in the second night of a back-to-back schedule.
The Knicks starters came out flat and dug themselves a 24-point hole in the third quarter. Thibodeau turned to their second unit, which played with the chemistry and intensity lacking in his starting five.
Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley led a spirited fourth-quarter comeback that rocked the Garden to its core with the celebrity row dancing in a celebration led by Fat Joe.
A Quickley three-pointer tied the game at 89 with 5:06 left.
It was fun while it lasted.
Pat Connaughton rescued the Bucks from another collapse with three straight three-pointers down the stretch to douse cold water on the Knicks’ fiery rally.
Connaughton finished with 23 points on a career-high seven three-pointers. It marked the fifth time in as many Knicks losses that an opposing player had a career game.
The Bucks shot 26 of 52 from downtown, the most ever three-pointers made at Madison Square Garden, according to ESPN Stats and Info. After the Knicks forced the deadlock, Milwaukee hit seven three-pointers which tied the most made in the final five mins of regulation over the last 25 seasons.
No matter how hard the second unit tried to hide the smelly stinker by the starters, it blew up in the end.
The second unit that rallied the Knicks back in this game had the best net rating among all five-man lineups that have played at least 60 minutes together. Rose, Quickley, Alec Burks, Obi Toppin, and Taj Gibson have played 61 minutes together and outscored opponents by 19.9 points per 100 possessions.
In stark contrast, the Knicks starting lineup of Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson have been outscored by 14.4 points per 100 possessions in 205 minutes, the most by any five-man lineup in the NBA.
On Wednesday night, the Knicks bench outscored the starters, 68-32.
The starting backcourt — Walker and Fournier, who came in the offseason with the hype of additional firepower — was a combined 2 for 12 from the field. Only Randle scored in double figures with 15 points but on 16 shots, and his plus-minus (-26) was the second-worst in the whole team. All starters had a negative plus-minus ranging from Robinson’s -15 to Barrett’s -28.
It was a humiliating performance that earned some boos from their home fans in the third quarter.
The Knicks dropped to 2-4 at home and will stake their 5-1 road record, the best in the Eastern Conference, against the Hornets in Charlotte on Friday.
Without the crowds for most of last season, the Knicks had a better home record (25-11) than on the road (16-20).
“Right now, we’re playing well on the road. We’re not playing well at home. It is unusual. So, we gotta get that straightened up,” Thibodeau said.
Rose, who led the Knicks with 22 points and seven assists, was lost for words on the Knicks’ struggles at their home floor.
“I really don’t know,” Rose said. “I can’t put a finger on it. It’s kind of hard to process right now. We gotta find a way.”
But they better hurry as the games keep on coming fast. And before they know it, the season might be over.
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