Wednesday night, on its own, meant nothing. The result would have no impact on the Knicks’ record and play no part in their season.
Good luck for Tom Thibodeau. He’s treated him like so much more than that, playing his big-minute starters, cursing the umpires, living and dying with every play and giving his players a listening ear for some loose defensive goods.
“Everything matters to me – everything we do,” he said afterwards. “For us, we are an organization that is being built right now. We want to establish ourselves. Our fight goes on every day and I love the fight with our guys.
The demanding and relentless Knicks coach certainly acted like that. If an observer did not have a schedule, it would have been impossible to know it was a mid-October basketball game from watching the home team coach. And Thibodeau’s players followed his lead, tightening their game and rallying with the Pistons, 108-100, to improve to 3-0 in preseason, and 6-1 under Thibodeau’s watch in games that didn’t. do not count.
“I don’t want to rest, I want to play,” said Derrick Rose. “I want to take my rhythm. Just get used to having the ball in my hands.
In the dying minutes, star forward Julius Randle dove for a loose ball. Thibodeau won a coaching challenge. This is not how most teams operate during the preseason, preferring to rest their stars and gain playing experience for young players.
The Knicks obviously treat these games differently, even though Thibodeau rested playmaker Kemba Walker on Wednesday. He reinserted his starters midway through the fourth quarter after playing most of the third, and that included Randle, who put a few knees to his left quad and had it wrapped at one point in the game. Four of its five holders have played at least 31 minutes.
“Every game is about reality, so that’s what it’s all about,” said Randle, who had 29 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes. “I’m actually happy that we had a game like this where we weren’t shooting well and we weren’t in a good rhythm and we had to figure that out. So it’s a good test for us mentally to prepare for the season.
That’s not to say Wednesday night went as planned. Thibodeau didn’t like the Knicks’ defense in the first half. They were dominated for most of the opening three quarters. Thereafter, Thibodeau spoke about the difference in intensity between the preseason, the regular season and the playoffs, and how far his team has yet to go. He needed to get back to his incumbents to achieve victory.
“We can’t fool ourselves into thinking we’re ready,” said Thibodeau. “Being honest with ourselves, watching the movie, understanding why we won or why we lost, and focusing on that improvement is essential every day.”
It’s the same approach Thibodeau took last year, when the Knicks surprisingly made the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They got there mainly through effort and tenacity, defending every night and outdoing their opponent. Nothing has changed. Thibodeau has said over and over again that they have to start from scratch this year, as if last year’s success hadn’t happened, and he operates in exactly the same way. Its players expect it.
“The Thibs are a different race, man. He’s going to give us our best and we’re going to give him our best every night. Randle said. “Thibs is definitely different. But that’s why we are who we are, in terms of the culture and the way we play every night.