Julius Randle has been an iron man for the New York Knicks during the 2022-23 season. Randle may have missed the last five games of the regular season due to an ankle injury, but he played in 77 consecutive games before that and he surely wouldn't miss any playoff action for the world. However, in the dying moments of the Knicks' 107-90 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of their first-round matchup, Randle could have suffered a serious injury after he landed hard on the ground on an and-one dunk over Jarrett Allen.
This would have been understandable if the Knicks were within shouting distance of the game. But this play happened with the Knicks down by 23 points with two minutes to go. There was no way the Knicks were coming back from that big of a deficit with so little time remaining. Naturally, head coach Tom Thibodeau caught a lot of flak for his decision to leave his best players in with the game out of reach — especially when it put arguably his best player in danger of injury.
Nevertheless, following the Knicks' loss, Thibodeau provided justification for what on the surface looks like an extremely shortsighted, if downright negligent, decision.
“I actually was going to sub Julius [Randle] out but he wanted to stay in a couple more possessions just to find rhythm,” Thibodeau said, per SNY Knicks.
"I actually was going to sub Julius [Randle] out but he wanted to stay in a couple more possessions just to find rhythm."
Tom Thibodeau on why Julius Randle was still in the game so late.
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 19, 2023
Julius Randle shot 8-20 from the field in the blowout defeat, so it definitely makes sense that he'll need to get into more of a rhythm so the Knicks could capitalize on their homecourt advantage-stealing Game 1 victory.
However, Tom Thibodeau could have overruled Randle if he wanted too, no? Sure, there's something to be said about keeping your stars happy. But in a blowout loss in Game 2 of what's now a tied series, it seems especially daft to leave someone who has already dealt with a lower body injury in the contest.
Running the risk of re-injury cannot be worth it in those circumstances, especially when they have a chance to take a commanding lead with the series against the Cavs heading to New York.