New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was all smiles and pulling off jokes.
“I just chill,” Thibodeau joked to reporters when asked what he does when the Knicks are up big.
The question came after Thibodeau rested three of his starters in the fourth quarter of a blowout win over the Charlotte Hornets Sunday to sweep a three-game homestand.
Building Good Habits
The Knicks improved to 5-4 and are above .500 for the first time this season.
Brunson finished with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Randle continued his remarkable bounce back after a poor start to the season with 23 points on 50% shooting to go with five rebounds and five assists. Robinson came one rebound short of a double-double with 10 points and nine boards.
Barrett remained to be the most consistent Knick as he wound up with 24 points on 4-of-6 3-pointers and 9-of-16 overall shooting.
Quickly turning serious after cracking the joke, Thibodeau drilled the importance of building good habits in the regular season for the playoffs.
“No, I think that’s important like we ask our players and everybody to put everything they have into each and every play each and every day,” Thibodeau told reporters. “So, that’s a habit you built and you want to have concentration on every play. So, you never want to get away from that.”
“And whether you’re up, you’re down or it’s tight, you’re building a habit in either you’re getting better, you’re getting worse. In this league, no lead is safe. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen 13 points [wiped out] in 35 seconds. So people that tell you to get the starters out, well, I know what experience tells me.”
Thibodeau was referring to Tracy McGrady’s 13 points in 33 seconds in 2004 to lead the Houston Rockets to beat the San Antonio Spurs, 81-80. Thibodeau was a Rockets assistant coach at that time.
The Knicks’ three-game winning streak coincided with Randle’s return to All-Star form after early shooting slump.
Over his last three games, Randle is averaging 24.3 points on 44.6% shooting, 10.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. It was a huge jump from his 27.1% shooting — the worst shooting percentage by a player in their first 6 games of a season since 1959 (min. 90 field goal attempts), per Basketball Reference — during the Knicks’ first six games.
A New York Post report revealed that Randle resisted sitting out due to lingering pain in his surgically repaired left ankle.
“He’s too proud to sit,” according to The Post report.
Randle underwent an arthroscopic surgery in the offseason after spraining his left ankle twice — toward the end of the regular season and in the playoffs.
He’s turning out to be the Knicks’ barometer this season.
In their five wins, Randle is averaging 21.8 points on 42.5% shooting and a plus-13.2 net rating. In their four losses, he’s only good for 11.5 points on 23.6% shooting and a minus-8.3 net rating.
The Knicks go as far as Randle goes.