For Josh Richardson, the shot appeared to be a layup. A first-quarter fumble by Jalen Brunson gave the Spurs’ guard a significant lead.
However, Julius Randle disagreed. He retreated quickly and blocked Richardson’s layup attempt, resulting in two free throws for Immanuel Quickley.
Don’t ever quit on a play, that’s what Coach [Tom Thibodeau] preaches. After the Knicks’ 117-114 victory over the Spurs on Wednesday at the Garden, Randle said, “That’s really what it is.” I was lagging behind him by a few steps.
I noticed that he was counting his backward steps. We simply followed it and blocked its path, and Jalen held strong and didn’t give up either. He entered the game again and grabbed a board.
Randle had four season-high blocks, including a chase-down rejection, on an impressive defensive night. This helped compensate for the star forward’s subpar shooting performance (he made just nine of 26 field goal attempts). He did score 25 points, grab 13 boards, and dish out 3 assists and 3 steals.
I don’t know, I guess I’m just trying to have fun. “I was trash, so I had to do something,” Randle explained, referring to his prior performance on the blocks. When I need a boost of confidence, I can always count on my colleagues to provide it. I was mildly annoyed with myself. Because of this, I was motivated to play with a bit more intensity.
On Wednesday night, Obi Toppin was free, but what would be done with him was less clear. After missing the previous 13 games with a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula, Thibodeau has decided to play him on an as-needed basis until he can return to full strength. Toppin sat out of the victory over the Spurs.
The Knicks head coach will have to decide whether to stick with his nine-man rotation and sit one of his reserve centers, Jericho Sims or Isaiah Hartenstein, once he is ready to go full-bore or to extend the rotation that has worked so well.
After initially claiming he would decide when it was time, Thibodeau made it plain Toppin would be a part of the second unit. However, others will be affected by his return.
RJ Barrett had been doing well in the bench role before he was sidelined for four games with a lacerated index finger. In games where Randle has been given more playing time, he has excelled. Modifications will have to be made. Toppin has missed 14 games, and the Knicks are 9-5 in that span.
There must be some wiggle room,” Thibodeau insisted. We’ll get there, but we need Obi, of course.
Derrick Rose, a guard with the Knicks, returned from a knee injury that kept him out of action on Monday but he still did not play. Spurs guard and second-leading scorer Devin Vassell missed the game with right knee pain. The next dozen games for the Knicks are all against teams from the Eastern Conference.