If nothing else, during Tom Thibodeau’s four seasons as the Knicks’ head coach, the various iterations of his teams, while at stages structurally flawed, have been collectively as mentally and physically tough as any in basketball. It has been their superpower and has shown itself again in the early part of this season.
While the offense has evolved, the Knicks’ sturdy defense under Thibodeau has been a constant. It has been anchored by center Mitchell Robinson, who has been one of the best defenders at any position in the league over the first five weeks. Robinson also tops in offensive rebounds at nearly six per game.
“His [Robinson’s] effort plays are special; it inspires the team. He’s not going to have a 40-point night but some of the plays he makes are just incredible, they’re great effort plays,” said Thibodeau.
“Oftentimes there’s two, three, four efforts on the play and he’s got bodies all over him, people are clamping him, holding him, he’s still getting to the ball…His pick and roll defense is terrific, rim protection terrific. All the intangibles he brings to the team. I say this all the time, I know his teammates have great appreciation for what he does. Coaches and the whole organization sometimes don’t realize the impact that he has.”
Moreover, the Knicks’ roster is replete with players who operate with intensity and force on both ends of the floor, which on most nights is unmatched by the opposition. The Knicks led the league in opponents’ points per game at 105.1 when the NBA slate of games tipped off last night.
A 115-91 victory over the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, fueled by Julius Randle’s monster 25-point, 20-rebound performance, earned the 10-7 Knicks a wildcard entry into the NBA In-Season Tournament. They will face the Milwaukee Bucks on the road next Tuesday in the quarterfinals. The winner will move on to the semifinals in Las Vegas on December 7.
Before playing the Bucks, the Knicks will have regularly scheduled games versus the Detroit Pistons tonight at the Garden and the Toronto Raptors tomorrow on the road. The tournament has necessitated changes to the league’s schedule, which will have the Knicks playing the Bucks five times this season.
A motivating factor for players to win the inaugural tournament is money. Each player on the eventual winner will receive a half a million dollars.
“Yeah, money is important and $500,000 is a lot. I don’t care what anybody says.” Randle candidly admitted.
“For the guys that aren’t making as much, it’s a big deal. We definitely want to win it for them. They put a lot into this.”
First appeared on amsterdamnews.com