The apology went off Friday, and the fine from the NBA seemed to put a nice bow over the problems for the Knicks and Julius Randle. His anger directed at the fan base was boiled over Thursday night when he gave a thumbs down sign to them and then clarified his message afterwards and told them to “close [expletive] up.”
Randle had said his piece to express his frustration over the reaction to his and the Knicks’ game one season after he was given a serenade shouting “MVP” every time he touched the ball. The Knicks had fought back from the early buh-Thursday to conquer a big win over the Celtics in Madison Square Garden, and everyone seemed happy again.
All the Knicks needed to do was follow that momentum-gathering victory with another stunning effort in Boston on Saturday, and returning home on Monday could give both sides the opportunity to kiss and make up.
But the Knicks and Randle instead delivered a dismal performance, which was beaten by the Celtics in TD Garden, 99-75, Saturday night. The 75 points marked the team’s lowest result since April 3, 2018. If you do not remember the great days that put the finishing touches on a season with 28 victories, the starting lineup included Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, Kyle O ‘Quinn, Frank Ntilikina and Lance Thomas. The Knicks were shorthanded Saturday, but not to that level.
Evan Fournier was put on the sidelines with a thigh contusion and the Knicks were still missing their point guards, Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose. Randle seemed to play with the same kind of emotional advantage that he did after the sluggish start Thursday, but he still struggled and shot 6-to-19 – the six field goals matched his six turnovers.
And he was not alone. While Immanuel Quickley stepped into the starting lineup and had 18 points on 7-to-11 shots, RJ Barrett led the Knicks with 19 points but shot only 33% and was 1-to-5 from the free-throw line. Alec Burks shot 2-to-11 and is 3-to-21 over the last two games.
“I think it’s just going to happen sometimes,” Barrett said. “There are a lot of games over the course of the season, and for some reason today was that day.”
Fans can forgive and forget gestures and words of frustration from Randle – after all in New York City, who has not uttered a similar phrase? – but if this kind of fight continues, the fans may not be so gracious.
“I do not know if he pressed,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of Randle. “They filled him up pretty well. It was expected. I thought he made a series of really good plays in the first half where the defense collapsed and he sprayed it out. We got some really good quality looks from the three. Winning away from home you have to play 48 minutes and we did not tonight.
“When you’re shorthanded, your margin of error is small. You have to play hard as hell, you have to play defense, you have to rebound the ball, you have to split the ball.”