Tom Thibodeau on Wednesday defended the heavy load of minutes for the Knicks’ top players, calling those questioning his substitution patterns the “minutes police.”
The Knicks coach, when asked about sticking with his nine-man rotation, pointed to the team’s record since he went to that rotation — they were 15-7 entering Wednesday’s game against the Wizards — and how well Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson have performed. The flip side is the Knicks had lost seven of their last 11 games decided by single digits, and recently had struggled as a team down the stretch.
“I know you guys like to create the narrative for your stories and you don’t look at it in totality. I don’t think we have anyone in the top 20 in minutes played,” Thibodeau said. “So it is what it is. I think you look at the people in your division and your conference. You look at how they’re playing their guys. More often than not you’re thinking about the matchups going into the game. When this guy’s on the floor we’re going to have this guy matched up with him. So that’s what you’re doing.”
In the previous 15 games before Wednesday, however, Randle was second in the league in minutes per game at 39.4, Brunson was fourth at 38.9 and Quentin Grimes was 14th at 36.4. The Knicks had not finished out games well, including blowing a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to the Raptors on Monday and losing a 17-point lead in the third quarter to the Bucks on Jan. 9. Thibodeau said minutes played, however, are only one factor in assessing workload.
“What did he do in practice?” he said. “Maybe he didn’t have any contact in practice, maybe it was a recovery day, or if he did do something in practice, you had a sub with him, and he did very little in practice. So there’s a lot of different things that go into pacing the team.”
On Tuesday, the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report did not find a missed call or a missed no-call at the end of regulation or overtime of the Knicks’ 123-121 loss to the Raptors on Monday. After that game, Thibodeau was critical of the officiating, saying, “it was hard to tell what a foul was.”
Asked about the report on Wednesday, Thibodeau said: “I don’t want to go backwards. It was the way the game went. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t. you just move on.”
On Barrett’s game-tying dunk with 0.6 seconds left in regulation, on which Scottie Barnes made contact with the “upper off-arm” of Barrett, the league said a no-call was the correct call because the contract did “not affect the speed, quickness, balance and/or rhythm of his shot.”
“The official has to use his judgment,” Thibodeau said. “That’s probably a 45-50 percent call that could go either way. When they say marginal contact, it’s what they think.”
Bradley Beal (left hamstring) returned for the Wizards after missing the last five games. He didn’t play in the first matchup between the two teams in Washington, a 112-108 Knicks victory on Jan. 13.
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