All-Star break hangover or harbinger? Knicks suffer season’s worst loss

new york knicks, julius randle

Fresh from his first NBA All-Star appearance, Julius Randle had a rude awakening.

Randle didn’t handle well his first game back as a bona fide All-Star and No.1 option. He rammed into a wall in Milwaukee as the Bucks shut him down, resulting in the New York Knicks’ worst loss of the season, 134-101, Thursday night at the Fiserv Forum.

It was a frustrating start for the Knicks, who entered the second half of the season with a winning record (19-18) for the first time in seven years. The loss should serve as an early wake-up call for the Knicks, who have the third-toughest schedule after the All-Star break.

The Bucks executed their game plan to perfection, limiting Randle to a season-low seven points on a brutal 3-for-12 shooting. The constant double and triple-team coverage threw off Randle, and the Knicks went down with their main man.

“I think it’s reading the game. The game’s gonna tell you what shots to take. You have to understand when you’re the first option, and somebody commits sending in a secondary defender, as a primary scorer, you have the responsibility to make the right play,” Tom Thibodeau lamented.

The stagnant offense typified by Randle’s struggles sapped the Knicks’ energy on defense.

On the flip side, the Bucks bullied them.

With Giannis Antetokounmpo picking up from where he left off in Atlanta, the Bucks followed his lead. Milwaukee shot 58 percent and hit 18-of-38 from deep in a dominant performance.

Antetokounmpo won the All-Star Game MVP with a perfect 16-for-16 shooting last Sunday. He followed that up with an 8-for-13 performance against the Knicks on his way to notching his fifth triple-double of the season.

Antetokounmpo, also the reigning back-to-back regular-season MVP, had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in under 30 minutes to lead the Bucks’ revenge win.

The Knicks, who blasted the Bucks, 130-110, in New York early in the season, was nowhere to be found in Milwaukee on Thursday night. They looked like the Knicks of last year who were running like headless chickens.

A 14-0 run in the first quarter was all the Bucks needed to take the lead, which they never relinquished. Though the Knicks’ second unit closed the gap to five at the end of the first quarter, the Bucks starters came back to restore order.

Milwaukee drew double figures from all its starters while RJ Barrett was the lone Stallion for the Knicks’ starting unit.

Barrett led the Knicks with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting, with Alec Burks adding 17 and eight assists off the bench.

The loss added to the Knicks’ woes against teams above .500 as they dropped to 5-11 in those games this season. They will try to lick the wounds of this stinging loss when they continue a tough four-game road trip in Oklahoma City this Saturday.

The Knicks are also hoping to avenge their 101-89 loss at the Thunder’s hands in The Garden back in January.

Randle is eager to bounce back as he insisted Thursday’s night’s loss was just an off night that usually comes after the All-Stat break.

“I’m not too worried, man. As far as I remember, the past couple of years, the first game after the break, I’m always sh*tty,” Randle said.

Randle was right.

Last year, he also had a similar seven-point game on 2-for-9 shooting against the Indiana Pacers after the All-Star break. He responded with 10 straight double-digit performances while leading the Knicks to a 4-6 record during that stretch before COVID-19 shut the league down.

The Knicks could only hope Randle can find his rhythm back as it’s clear that they could only go as far as he takes them.

Not unless a significant help comes before the trade deadline to ease his burden.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Yankees: Grading each position player before the All-Star break

New York Yankees, Gleyber Toress, Miguel Andujar

With the MLB All-Star game Tuesday, the New York Yankees have five players featured in the mid-summer classic – Gary Sanchez, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Aroldis Chapman, and Masahiro Tanaka. They enter the break credited with a 57-31 record and are 6.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay in first place for the AL East. Slugging 148 home runs and holding a team 4.17 ERA, the Bombers are in second place overall in the league.

Here are my grades given to the New York Yankees:

(Disclaimer: Position players listed must have a minimum of 100 at-bats and are currently on the active roster heading into the All-Star break. Opinions are my own.) 

DJ LeMahieu: A+

DJ LeMahieu has been the Yankees’ MVP all season. Leading the team in batting average and RBIs, LeMahieu seems to come in clutch every opportunity he has. The Yankees’ infielder is batting .480 (36-75) with 51 runs knocked in with RISP. He is currently eighth for WAR position leaders. LeMahieu has been nothing short than phenomenal and deserves every right to be starting in the All-Star game. LeMahieu is also an American League MVP contender.


Gleyber Torres: A

Gleyber Torres is another Yankee all-star that should have been selected to begin with. Torres is batting .292 with 19 home runs and his slash line is equivalent with some of the league’s premier players this season. Torres being 22 years old with two all-star games is nothing short of special.

Luke Voit: A

Yankees’ slugger Luke Voit has been awesome to watch. Third on the team in home runs, while holding a .280 BA, Voit has been a big impact player for the Bombers. The Yankees’ first basemen held a 42 on-base streak this season which contributed to a lot of early-season wins for the team.

Brett Gardner: B+

Yankees’ veteran, Brett Gardner, is a “textbook” kind of ballplayer. Everything he does is with intent and hustle. Not the flashiest option, but Gardner does everything right. Only fanning 49 times this season, Gardner has shown some pop with 14 home runs – eight of them have given the Yankees the lead.

Gary Sanchez: A

The Gary Sanchez “haters” have been very quiet this season. Leading the team with 24 home runs, Sanchez just seems to be playing his own game. Another Yankee all-star, fans will see their catcher starting behind the dish for the American League team.

Gio Urshela: A

Gio Urshela was a guy that was told prior to the season he would be a “every-other-day” player and fill up roles. Urshela has proved he is much more than that. Defensively outstanding and strong at the plate, Urshela is credited to many Yankee wins this season and is extremely fun to watch.

Aaron Hicks: B

Aaron Hicks dealt with an injury this season and I believe is still trying to find a rhythm at the plate. Definitely capable of more however still a major piece in the Yankee lineup.

Cameron Maybin: B+

Cameron Maybin has been a role-filler for the Yankees and has truly proven himself. Many believed he was signed just to fill injury holes in the outfield but Maybin has shown he is here to stay in the Bronx. Batting .314 in 118 AB, Maybin has had some big hits in his limited playing time.

Aaron Judge: B+

Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge has also dealt with injuries this season, not allowing him to get into full rhythm. Hitting a strong .281, Judge has nine home runs in 114 AB.

Mike Tauchman: B

I love everything about Mike Tauchman. Jumping up and down from triple-A to the big leagues is definitely a challenge but Tauchman has shown he can handle it. Being a role-filler, Tauchman recently caught a little fire heading into the All-Star break.