Desperate times call for desperate measures.
In a win-or-go-home Game 5 tonight, the New York Knicks need a few adjustments that could throw off the Miami Heat‘s game plan. An anonymous NBA Eastern Conference assistant coach threw a wild idea to Fred Katz of The Athletic.
“Just playing Randle at the five. I know it’s not something they did (in the regular season). I thought they found something at the end of Game 3, (when head coach Tom Thibodeau played [Julius] Randle and Obi Toppin together at the end of a 19-point game). You could say it was a blowout, but I thought they had a good run with Toppin at the four and Randle at the five. I would explore that rather quickly. I know it’s not how they play, necessarily, but I would explore it,” the assistant coach told The Athletic.
In Game 3, Thibodeau went small with 7:49 left and the Knicks trailing by 22, 73-95. The Randle-Toppin frontcourt was able to help the Knicks cut the Heat’s lead to 13, 84-97, with 4:23 left. The Heat eventually won 105-86.
In the regular season, the Randle-Toppin combo with Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes and RJ Barrett was minus-16.7 in 18 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. It’s a small sample size, but given the dire situation the Knicks are in, as Thibodeau said before Game 4, “everything is on the table now.”
Julius Randle Rues Knicks Lack of Urgency
If there is, one thing the Knicks have to change is their sense of urgency or lack of it.
After dominating the bigger Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round in the rebounding and hustle effort, the smaller Heat have neutralized that Knicks advantage in this series.
The Heat have outrebounded the Knicks in the past two games, which resulted in wins to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
“Maybe they want it more. I don’t know. That’s been who we are all year, and we’ve gotta find a way to step up and make those plays if we want to keep this season alive,” Randle said when asked why the Heat have winning the hustle department.
According to NBA.com’s tracking data, the Heat have recovered 64.3% of loose balls on the offensive end in the first four games, ranked No. 1 among all remaining eight teams in the playoffs. The Knicks are last, recovering only 41.2% of loose balls on the offensive end. The Heat are also leading in deflections (16.3 per game) and loose balls recovered (7.0 per game), and charges drawn (1.75 per game) for the entire second round.
Stephen A. Smith Asks Knicks to Trade Julius Randle
“I’m gonna say this. I think they should trade him,” Smith said. “If you could get your hands on somebody like Karl-Anthony Towns — Don’t get me wrong. I’m talking about basketball ability, not durability. I don’t think anybody could compete with Julius Randle. He’s been Mr. Reliable. He played the first 77 games of this season before he got injured. So reliability, dependability in that regard, I can’t sniff at that. But I’m talking about from a talent perspective, particularly come playoff time — I’d rather have Karl-Anthony Towns than Julius Randle.”
Over the last three seasons, Smith pointed out that Randle has the worst field goal percentages postseason at 34.6% with a minimum of 100 attempts. He also has the worst 3-point field goal shooting percentage at 22.9% minimum of 40 attempts. His opponents — the guy he’s directly defending — he’s given a 50% shooting.