Big Ben Tuesday: Knicks Limp Back to New York, Try to Find a Way in Game 5

MSG, NY – When I started writing this I was hoping the Rangers would take care of business at The Garden and would be moving on.  Spoiler Alert: They didn’t. That’s why the focus today is on the Knicks, who are limping home for Tuesday’s Game 5 in a much worse shape than when they left for Indiana. The injury bug is chomping on Knicks like a hungry, hungry caterpillar. Is it all just bad luck or does Tom Thibodeau and thin rotation bare some of the blame ? He sure does lean on his guys.

OG’s Hammy

When the Knicks came back to win Game 2 vs the Pacers, the story was Brunson’s second half return from injury on the anniversary of Willis Reed’s famous return from injury. It was a good story. But the most important storyline of that game, in terms of winning the series not just that game, was the hamstring injury to OG Anunoby. The Knicks are a ridiculous 26-5 with him in the lineup and a mediocre 13-15 without him. As I’ve argued before, he’s their second most important player. This injury could be the one they can’t overcome.

Thibs’ History

Thibs has always had a propensity to overwork his players. It’s fair to wonder if the minutes have taken their toll. The last guy to log the kind of minutes Josh Hart is logging was Jimmy Butler, when Thibs was his coach. He leans hard on his guys.

It’s obviously not all his fault. Bojan wasn’t playing much when he got hurt and Mitchell Robinson has had plenty of injuries in his career. And you can’t blame Tom for Fat Embiid pulling Robinson down. But Brunson’s foot and OG’s hammy? Overuse might have contributed to those.

Big Minutes

In Game 2 of this series, Thibs only used seven players (not counting 45 seconds of Burks), despite the fact that OG and Brunson both missed over a quarter. In Game 1 they only used 7 guys, not counting 4 first half minutes from Precious. Why not use Precious more in that one? Or give Burks a look, knowing the veteran is capable of getting hot?

Going back to the Philly series, the Knicks only used seven in Game 6, seven in Game 5, despite the game going to OT, and only seven in Game 4, not counting Bojan’s 1 minute before he got hurt.

The huge workload adds up. Even a few minutes off here and there can make a big difference. Achiuwa proved himself trustworthy after the Knicks had a rash of injuries after January. They traded for Burks to be the veteran presence in case they got into a pinch. Thibs should have used him sooner, like in Game 2.

Maybe the injuries would have happened anyway. But with the amount of minutes these guys have played, combined with the history of Thibs, it seems to me that overuse might have been a factor.

Game 5

At last report, Anunoby is only doing pool work, so he doesn’t seem likely to play in Game 5. That is bad news. They may have to use Sims a bit to spell Hartenstein, and hope McBride or Burks can get hot off the bench. But without a doubt, they’ll need to get some Brunson magic in this one.

Ben Whitney

As Juney (Junoir Blaber) said yesterday, the blowout at least allowed them to rest guys. Maybe they’ll come out refreshed. The Knicks need to pull one out at home or things will be looking mighty dire.

That’s it for me. Come back tomorrow for the Angry Ward.

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About Ben Whitney 410 Articles
Ben Whitney comes from journalistic stock. Aside from his brothers, rumor has that his great-great grandfather was the youngest brother of Eli Whitney and covered the earliest "rounders" games. Big Ben is also another New York Rugby Club player/pal of Different Matt, Short Matt and Junoir Blaber. He likes film noir discussions, has twin girls and took up ice hockey after retiring from rugby.