Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau Explains Precious Achiuwa’s 4th-Quarter Benching

Knicks' Precious Achiuwa 4th qtr benching

Getty Precious Achiuwa #5 of the New York Knicks warms up before a game.

Precious Achiuwa has been providing the New York Knicks the interior presence they are sorely lacking in the wake of three-time All-Star power forward Julius Randle‘s shoulder injury.

Yet despite scoring 15 points on 7 of 8 shooting — all inside the paint — through the first three quarters of their 116-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, March 5, at Madison Square Garden, Achiuwa did not get off his seat on the bench in the final period until the game was already beyond reach — the Hawks establishing a 15-point lead — with 1:52 left.

“Just the way the game went,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters, explaining Achiuwa’s benching in the fourth quarter, after the loss. “[The Hawks] were collapsing so we needed the shooting on the floor.”

Thibodeau opted to roll with Bojan Bogdanovic, who played the entire fourth quarter. The ploy backfired as Bogdanovic only hit 1 of 6 shots, including four missed 3-pointers, in the final 12 minutes of the game.

The Knicks attempted a season-high 52 3-pointers but only made 16 for a paltry 30.8% efficiency.

Thibodeau was reluctant to play two non-shooting bigs, with Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims alternating at the slot in that pivotal fourth quarter where the Hawks outscored them 33-22.

Atlanta smothered New York in the paint 20-2 in the final quarter.

Achiuwa, who added six rebounds, two assists and one block, was the lone Knicks starter who finished with a positive net rating (plus-2).

It was the fourth straight Achiuwa was not able to grab double-digit rebounds. His minutes have been trending down over his past three games to mid-20s from a 38.7-minute average in February when he was a constant double-double threat (12.2 points and 10.7 rebounds).

Jalen Brunson Dodges Serious Knee Injury

Knicks All-Star point guard Jalen Brunson skipped the loss but he’s not expected to miss a significant amount of time.

Brunson’s MRI result came clean, according to Thibodeau.

“A contusion, it’s bruised,” Thibodeau told reporters via SNY of Brunson’s knee injury. “It’s a lot better than it was. We just want to make sure that he’s completely ready. He had an MRI and everything came back clean.”

Dr. Brian Sutterer, a sports medicine doctor who has a widely popular YouTube channel explaining sports injuries, described Brunson’s injury as a minor as the banging with Cleveland Cavaliers wing Isaac Okoro’s knee “stunned the peroneal nerve that picks your ankle up.”

In 2018, former Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala suffered the same injury during their championship run. Iguodala, now retired, missed six games — the last four of the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets and the first two of the NBA Finals against the Cavaliers that season.

Brunson will return at some point in the Knicks’ final 20 games before the playoffs.

Julius Randle Makes Progress

Julius Randle, along with OG Anunoby (elbow surgery) and Mitchell Robinson (ankle surgery) all joined the trip and participated in the morning shootaround, according to Newsday’s Steve Popper.

“Just the next step now that they’re doing more on the court,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said via Newsday. “All three of them. [Randle] is working on the court. He’s doing stuff in the weight room. Stuff like that . . . He’s taken some light contact [with pads] but nothing with a player yet. So that’ll be the next step.”

ESPN showed Randle hoisting shots in the pregame of the Knicks’ massive win over the Cavaliers on Sunday, March 3.



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