New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau got a lot of heat not only for his team’s woeful showing but also for his decision to keep his stars on the floor in the closing moments of a 107-90 blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
The outspoken Charles Barkley of “Inside the NBA” called Thibodeau’s decision “flat-out stupid.”
“Why was Julius Randle in the game? [It’s a] 20-point game,” Ernie Johnson, the show’s anchor, asked the rest of the crew, referring to the play that nearly injured Randle off a Jarrett Allen flagrant foul.
“That was just stupid,” Charles Barkley replied.
“Reggie Miller said that it was just stupid to have Randle and Jalen Brunson in the game. That’s just crazy. I really like Tom [Thibodeau], but that was just flat-out stupid. If [Randle] got hurt right there. … I was saying, why is he in the game? They were down  with five minutes to go, and they still have them in the game. That was just a flat-out stupid [decision] by the Knicks,” Barkley added.
The ugly scene of Randle sprawled on the floor against the basketball stanchion brought back memories of Derrick Rose’s first ACL injury in Chicago in 2012.
Thibodeau, who was on his first head coaching job with the Bulls then, left Rose on the floor with their team up by 12 with 1:22 left during their first-round series opener against the Philadelphia 76ers. It was Rose’s first season-ending knee injury, and he was never the same again.
The Knicks were fortunate that Randle was not injured. That could have been a massive blow given that the Cavaliers evened the series at 1-1 with their win.
Julius Randle Sounds Off on Jarrett Allen
Randle was already calm when facing the media after the Knicks’ Game 2 loss. But he didn’t mince words when asked about Allen’s flagrant foul.
“I thought it was a little unnecessary,” Randle told reporters during his postgame press conference. “When you understand playoff basketball, you don’t give up on plays, and I respect that. I’m somebody who plays hard. I respect that, but typically when you make those kinds of plays, you run across their body, not through them. But it’s fine. It’s irrelevant [now]. We go back to the Garden, and we’ll see them there.”
Allen defended himself, saying it was “a hustle play.”
The incident will only add fuel to the fire of what is quickly shaping up to be a war of attrition.
The best-of-seven series shifts to New York for Games 3 and 4, beginning April 21.
Josh Hart Plays Through Pain
Hart had a quiet Game 2, finishing with only five points on 2-of-3 shots and four rebounds. He had 17 points and 10 rebounds in Game 1.
Hart picked up a technical foul in the second quarter that triggered a 14-5 closing run by the Cavaliers, who went into halftime with a 20-point lead.
The Knicks never recovered.