cleveland as new York Knicks reached the close of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup against cleveland cavaliersthey did it believing Julius Randle Will find a way to play.
After spraining his left ankle on March 29 Miami HeatAt the time, there was some question whether the All Star forward would be ready for the start of the series. But anyone who saw him in recent days and knew the kind of determination he showed night after night throughout the season never doubted what Saturday night would be like.
The fact that Randle scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had four assists in nearly 34 minutes and helped lead the tough-minded group to a 101-97 Game 1 victory was nothing short of a surprise and was a guess for those who knew him best.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game, “The people that are around him, we all know, you get everything that he has.” “Julius played 77 games until he sprained his ankle. … You get everything he has. I knew if he could go, he would go. That’s Julius.”
Randle admitted after the game that he was confident he would find a way to play as he continued to rehab his ankle. He provided exactly the kind of lift Thibodeau was hoping to see, an engine behind the Knicks’ impressive 51-38 rebounding advantage over a Cavs team that didn’t have enough answers down the stretch.
“Every day I got better,” Randall said. “So I figured I’d be fine by the time Saturday came.”
While Randle boosted the scoring throughout the night, the biggest play he made came with the Knicks leading 99–97 with less than 10 seconds left in regulation. knicks guard jalen brunson missed a 22-foot jumper with 9.1 seconds remaining, but Randle rebounded and then Knicks guard Quentin Grimes Was fouled seconds later and cooled off the game with two clutch free throws.
Randle’s coaches and teammates all noted what an emotional lift it was to get their big man back on the floor.
“He’s a presence,” Brunson said. “It can’t be shooting. … Obviously, he can do all that, but the offensive rebound was huge, the little things he’s committed himself to do is fantastic. It helps us.” Some of the things he does, it might not go on the stat sheet, but it’s big time.”
In addition to Randle’s return, the Knicks got some contributions from up and down their roster in Saturday’s win. Brunson shook off some early foul trouble and finished with 27 points, hitting some big shots down the stretch.
josh hart, who sprained his ankle late in regulation, provided a big lift off Thibodeau’s 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, including a crucial three-pointer with 1:49 left that put the Knicks back in the lead. Gave an edge Hart’s performance was even more impressive as he was playing in his first career playoff game.
New York’s bench outscored Cleveland’s bench 37-14, a key reason why Randle was quick to point out the efforts of the entire group, while admitting he was a little winded after missing nearly three weeks. .
“I was tired as hell, for sure,” Randall said. “But that’s why we have such a good team. Able to depend on guys, JB, Josh [Hart]Everyone is capable of being able to pick on each other, so I just go out there, do my best, and let the leaves fall where they may. Just trust the players and it was a great win for the team.”
It was the type of win that defined Thibodeau’s coaching career — a win made even more impressive knowing the Knicks haven’t played it with Randle still, or feeling like his old self.
“Dependability is a big part of the league,” Thibodeau said. “And it’s important to be able to trust each other, so we don’t want anyone to get hurt. We don’t want to harm anyone, but if you can give us something, give us what you have.” And that’s why I’m proud of Julius. He gave us what he had.”