Julius Randle lost his temper.
It was a flashback to last season when Jalen Brunson wasn’t around and Randle’s quickly unleashed rage made for an ugly, spiraling season. But Randle seemed to have that under control as he re-emerged as a 2023 All-Star.
See you Saturday in Los Angeles.
Randle was awarded a technical foul late in the third quarter after hitting the Clippers’ Mason Plumlee in the chest with an elbow. After the whistle, Randle went after the referees and appeared upset with a Knicks security guard near the team bench.
It was an ugly scene and impossible not to correlate with Randle’s dismal basketball performance. With Brunson injured and in plain clothes, Randle missed 19 of his 24 shots as the Knicks lost their third straight Saturday, 106-95, dropping from fourth to fifth in the Eastern Conference, behind the Brooklyn Nets.
“There was definitely a physicality to the game. It is what it is,” said coach Tom Thibodeau. “Just the heat of battle. Sometimes you can get frustrated. But it’s an emotional game. Just keep playing.
Randle’s tantrum was a flash point. The three free throws (two by Plumlee for the foul, one by Kawhi Leonard for the technique) gave the Clippers the lead going into the fourth quarter. It also started LA’s 9-0 run and the Knicks (39-30) never recovered.
Although Randle blamed the on-court refs, it was an even contest with the refs allowing more physicality. In fact, the Knicks attempted 11 more free throws than the Clippers. Another possible explanation for Randle’s frustration is simple exhaustion. His 34 minutes on Saturday saw him lead the league in total minutes played. Randle also lacked Brunson to share the load, and the other running mate – RJ Barrett – struggled on Saturday as he shot 5-for-12.
Thibodeau did not co-sign the tired apology.
“I’m also a believer if a guy is missing shots, that means he’s tired,” said the coach.
Randle’s effort contrasted with the dominance of Kawhi Leonard, who dropped 38 points in the Clippers’ third straight victory. Randle, the current Eastern Conference Player of the Week, shot just 18 for 63 during the three-game losing streak.
With the Knicks playing the Lakers on a back-to-back Sunday, Thibodeau didn’t seem eager to rest Randle.
“You can give them a day off. And you can give them a day off when they’re not playing too,” said Thibodeau. “There are different ways to give days off. And the thing with Julius is he works really hard to handle those minutes. And he wants to play those games.
Brunson, meanwhile, lost his third game with a “sore foot”. He made his return on Thursday in Sacramento, but lasted only half an hour before aggravating the injury and limping to the locker room.
The Knicks certainly miss him.
Thibodeau told reporters that Brunson had an X-ray, which came back negative, and classified the injury as a concussion. Otherwise, Thibodeau, who is vague about injuries, wouldn’t provide a recovery schedule.
“When he’s cleared, he’s cleared,” Thibodeau said.
Immanuel Quickley again replaced Brunson as the starting point guard, and his play was under the microscope after going a miserable 6-for-27 in the previous two games. Quickley responded on Saturday with a strong effort – 26 points, 10 rebounds – but couldn’t overcome Randle’s misery.
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