Head coach Tom Thibodeau clarified Sunday following their solid Game 4 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers that the New York Knicks will continue to believe in Julius Randle amid a second-straight inconsistent night.
Randle’s production was nowhere to be found on the Knicks’ Sunday victory, tallying just seven points and two boards in 27 minutes of play. He also went passive against the Cavs, recording 3-for-10 shooting throughout the night.
Thibodeau pointed out that Randle could be perhaps struggling due to his long absence prior to the first-round series against Cleveland. The All-Star big man notably had sprained left ankle that kept him out for New York’s last five regular season games.
“Look, Julius is our horse. He’s given us everything that he has,” Thibodeau said, per Peter Botte of the New York Post. “A lot of guys probably wouldn’t even be playing. So I knew that the quick turnaround [from Friday night] would probably impact him more than most players.
“He was out an extended amount of time. We’ve got multiple days here before the next game where we’ll get a chance to get some recovery time. The thing I love about him is he gives you everything he has. He’s done that. To come back the way he did, be ready for Game 1. Credit to him. We need it, he’s our horse. You know that.”
Randle’s horrifying showing in Game 4 prompted Thibodeau to bench him for the entirety of the final frame. He instead relied on reserves Obi Toppin and Isaiah Hartenstein to close out the game at front and help starting center Mitchell Robinson to anchor the Knicks down the stretch.
Randle didn’t speak in front of the reporters following the club’s Game 4 triumph.
“Obviously whatever you think gives the team the best chance to win, that’s what you’re gonna do,” Thibodeau said of his lineup adjustment that didn’t favor Randle. “That being said, there are a number of guys who are sacrificing and putting the team first. So I think that’s critical.”
With a commanding 3-1 lead over the Cavaliers, the Knicks will look to close out the series on Wednesday and advance to the Conference Semis for the first time since 2013.