Nuggets Coach Drops Truth Bomb on Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau Knicks-Wizards

Getty New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau motions during a game against the Washington Wizards.

The New York Knicks are officially streaking once again after logging their third straight win on Saturday. Moreover, the latest result — a 116-110 victory over Nikola Jokic and the West-leading Denver Nuggets — had the distinct feel of a statement win.

After watching a big lead evaporate just before halftime and then nearly letting go of the rope once play resumed, the Knicks bounced back to the tune of a 19-4 run as the third period wound down. In doing so, they erased a 13-point deficit and got the crowd at MSG rocking and rolling.

From there, Tom Thibodeau‘s club rode the wave to its 42nd notch on the left side of the W/L ledger this season, officially securing just the second winning campaign in the Big Apple over the last 10 years.

While there were a number of heroes in the game — the returning Jalen Brunson, an efficient RJ Barrett, Josh Hart with another Swiss army knife stat line — Nuggets coach Michael Malone would probably credit Thibodeau for much of what went down.

Before the game tipped off, Malone was effusive in his praise of the Knicks coach

Michael Malone Sounds Off on Knicks Coach Tom Thibodeau

Brunson, Barrett, & Coach Thibodeau On Knicks Big Win Over Denver At Home | New York KnicksJalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Coach Tom Thibodeau speak with the media following a 116-110 win over the Denver Nuggets who are currently first in the west. Jalen Brunson scored 24 points in his first game back from injury and played over 31 minutes in his return. » Subscribe to MSG Networks: About MSG…2023-03-18T20:47:33Z

Dating back to his days as Doc Rivers’ assistant in Beantown, Thibodeau has been praised — and, occasionally, panned — for his old-school principles and defensive focus. According to Malone, though, the two-time NBA Coach of the Year shouldn’t be typecast.

“You know what’s really interesting, what happens in this business is everybody wants to pigeonhole people. They said that Tom Thibodeau is just a defensive coach and he doesn’t know that there’s a scoreboard and that you have to score points in this league,” Malone said, via Newsday’s Steve Popper.

“You look at their stat, their efficiency, their offense has been terrific. It’s been almost reversed. They’re top five in offense and outside of the top 10 right now in defensive efficiency. Last five games they’re the No. 1 running team in the league. So, I think it just gives credit — coaches change, they adjust, they get better. We always ask our players to get better. And all the good coaches are not afraid to look themselves in the mirror and challenge themselves to get better.”

As Malone sees it, Thibodeau is doing exactly that; playing the hand he has been dealt and doing so to the greatest possible effect.

“Thibs, obviously, he’s had success everywhere he’s been, The guy is passionate. We all know about his work ethic. He continues to do his job at a high level.”

Not Everyone Is on the Thibodeau Bandwagon

In an effort to gauge the Knicks’ postseason viability, the folks over at CBS Sports probed a number of NBA people for their sense of the club. And while the general tone of those responses was positive in nature, one top exec had serious doubts about the team.

And Thibodeau’s presence factored heavily into that assessment:

“Unless someone’s hurt, I don’t see anyone beating those teams in a seven-game series,” he said. “I see (New York) as a second-round team. Them versus Cleveland would be a good first-round series.”

While he likes what New York has built, and also has been impressed with Brunson’s time in New York, he’s also highly skeptical of Thibodeau. He’s worried the Knicks coach is too rigid in the defensive coverages he uses, the adjustments he makes, and what is often a perceived inflexibility for an otherwise celebrated coach.

“The issue will be Thibs will not change in the playoffs,” he said.

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