It looked, for a while at least, like the bottom was dropping out for the Knicks at home against the Bulls on Thursday. Chicago led by as many as 21 in the first half and, worse, New York was getting testy—with the refs, with the Bulls, with themselves.
Walking into the locker room at halftime, cameras caught Knicks star Julius Randle and shooting guard Evan Fournier arguing with each other over a play. There was nothing close to fisticuffs, but the chat was obviously intense and not entirely friendly.
SNY broadcaster Mike Breen said the two were, “having a discussion. The frustration, you could see it throughout the first two quarters.”
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps also characterized the interaction as a discussion. “Julius Randle and Evan Fournier have a discussion as they walk off the court,” he wrote on Twitter. “Appeared to be a miscommunication of some sort on the final possession. A good summation of a disastrous half for the Knicks, who trail 69-51 after a very impressive performance by Chicago.”
New York Daily News writer Stefan Bondy saw it a little different, writing on Twitter, “Julius Randle and Evan Fournier arguing with each other over a play as they leave the court for halftime.”
Judge for yourself:
Taj Gibson Ejected in First Quarter
Randle, for his part, admitted he and Fournier were frustrated, saying, “The biggest thing is communication, I can’t let things stay in and be frustrated. I’ve got to talk to my teammates.”
Whatever happened as the Knicks went into the locker room, at the very least, they came out of the locker room a different team. After fewer than seven minutes in the third quarter, the Bulls’ sizable lead had been shrunk to one point. The Knicks would eventually take the lead in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls rallied and held on to win the game.
Maybe there is a moral victory there for the Knicks, especially for Randle, who was terrific in the second half and finished the game with 30 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. But that won’t change the fact that it was also an exceptionally fraught and emotional game for the blue-and-orange.
Already without centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims, the Knicks saw big man Taj Gibson ejected at the 4:14 point of the first quarter. Gibson was upset that he was called for his second foul and, because he was demonstrative, was given a technical foul. Gibson argued for just a few seconds more and was again whistled for a technical, which earned him an early exit.
“That’s just horrible officiating,” said Breen, who is not usually emotional in his characterizations of the refs. “That’s overreacting to a reaction from a player. There’s no way Taj Gibson deserves to be thrown out there.”
After the game, coach Tom Thibodeau said only, “Yeah, it’s unfortunate,” about the ejection.
Knicks Schedule Lightens Up
The good news (hopefully) for the Knicks is that after back-to-back games against the No. 1 and 2 teams in the Eastern Conference, the schedule lightens up. The Knicks took a difficult, two-point loss to the Nets on Tuesday and followed that up with the four-point loss to the Bulls Thursday. None of their next four opponents, though, have winning records and combined, they are 17 games below .500.
That does not guarantee wins, but with the Knicks having made the move to bench point guard Kemba Walker and run significant parts of the offense through Randle, the team has had a bit of an awakening, even in two losses.