Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has often articulated his belief in staying in the moment and not looking beyond the next game. It’s a sound philosophy but one that is challenging to consistently practice, particularly when the schedule is as daunting on paper as what lies ahead for Knicks.
They began a three-game road trip on Monday with a 95-93 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers to drop to 23-25, 11th in the Eastern Conference before playing the Heat in Miami last night (Wednesday). The Knicks starting center Mitchell
Robinson sat out against the Cavs with a sprained left ankle, which occured on Sunday at Madison Square Garden in a 110-102 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Cavs’ victory against the Knicks improved their record to 29-19, fifth in the East, and they were just 1.5 games behind the Heat, who were 30-17 and atop of the conference standings before hosting the Knicks. Tomorrow, the Knicks will challenge the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, who were 30-19, fourth in the conference, and just one game below the Heat prior to facing the Cavaliers on the road last night.
So this week’s test against three of the top five teams in the East may be less difficult than what awaits the Knicks the next two weeks. They return to the Garden for games against the Sacramento Kings and ascending Memphis Grizzlies next Monday and Wednesday respectively, then embark on a eight-day, five-game road trip versus Western Conference opponents that could put them in a deficit in the race for a playoff spot from which they may not recover.
The Knicks will open up against the Los Angeles Lakers Feb. 5, then in succession play the Utah Jazz (Feb. 7), Denver Nuggets (Feb. 8), Golden State Warriors (Feb. 10) and close with the Portland Trailblazers Feb. 12. Following the defeat to the Cavaliers, Thibodeau stressed the Knicks have to adapt to what the schedule makers and circumstances have produced, and the potential fatigue that arises over the course of the long 82-game regular season grind.
“Look, back-to-backs are part of this league,” he said in reference to his team having to play this past Sunday and Monday. “And that’s why your conditioning is so important. And you want to be in great shape. You gotta prepare for everything. There’s gonna be stretches where the schedule is in your favor, other times when it’s not,” Thibodeau messaged.
“When the ball goes up you gotta be ready to go. And so some nights the other team is more rested than you are but that’s no excuse. You gotta find a way to get it done.”