The New York Knicks have avoided the ultimate disaster when it comes to All-Star forward Julius Randle in that he didn’t suffer a major injury to his ankle in Wednesday’s win over Miami, but he will miss the rest of the regular season and it will be a race against time for Randle to be ready for the start of the NBA playoffs. New York begins life without Randle tonight at Cleveland in what could be an East first-round playoff preview as the Cavs are fourth in the conference and the Knicks fifth.
NBA News: Knicks Without Julius Randle Rest of Regular Season, Perhaps Start of Playoffs
Randle, 28, was hurt in the second quarter against Miami when he grabbed an offensive rebound and Heat center Bam Adebayo landed on him after Randle faked a shot. He was eventually helped up and stayed in the game to shoot his free throws. But he was clearly in pain, and the Knicks quickly committed a foul to substitute him. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
Staying in one of the top six spots in the East takes on major significance considering Randle, who had played in every game for New York, won’t be reevaluated until after the first set of play-in games has taken place and just two days before the first round of the playoffs are set to begin. As long as the Knicks are not in the play-in round, the playoffs for them would start no earlier than April 15. (The regular season ends on April 9, and the play-in runs from April 11 to April 14.)
New York’s remaining schedule includes games against the Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers (twice) and New Orleans Pelicans. NY is 44-33, and while it is not officially locked into the fifth spot in the East, that’s probably where it will finish.
Randle, who is averaging 25.1 points, 10 rebounds and 4.1 assists, made his second All-Star team last month, and is one of four players — along with Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis — who is averaging at least 25 and 10 this season. As part of the 30 for 3 campaign, for the 2022-23 season, Randle has promised to donate $500 for each three-pointer he makes to the Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball School in the Bronx. He has donated nearly $110,000.
Randle has been cooking on the road this season. Randle has 16 games of 30-points which is tied for the most 30-point games on the road in franchise history. Coach Tom Thibodeau made it clear that it will take more than one Knick to replace Randle.
“When you have a guy who’s averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds and five assists and doing the things that he’s doing, you’re not replacing him with an individual player,” Thibodeau said. “But what we can do is we can play great defense, we can rebound the ball great, we can take care of the ball. We know if we do those three things great, we can be in position to win. So we gotta make up for him collectively. That was the challenge when Jalen [Brunson] was out, and if Jules misses some time, then next guy get in there.”
Obi Toppin may start in Randle’s spot. On Wednesday, Toppin was on the court with the other starters to open the third quarter against the Heat, and he remained in the game until Josh Hart subbed in for him with 1:39 remaining. Toppin played 20 minutes in Monday’s blowout win over the Rockets and 17 minutes against the Heat, his most extended playing time since a 22-minute stint on Dec. 3. Toppin came off the floor near the end of the third vs. Miami. He never re-entered.
Meanwhile, the Knicks played small the rest of the way — with Hart and RJ Barrett at the two forward spots. The fivesome that closed the Heat game (Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Hart, Barrett and Isaiah Hartenstein) had played only 27 minutes together all season entering Wednesday. That group outscored Miami 25-16 in the period.
New York is a 5-point dog Friday in Cleveland, although the Cavs are expected to be without All-Star center Jarrett Allen due to a minor injury. Allen ranks 7th in the NBA (4th in the Eastern Conference) in field goal percentage (.645) and 11th in the NBA in rebounds per game (9.9 RPG). He has recorded a career-high tying 32 doubles-doubles this season (Cavs are 25-7).
Cleveland is playing New York for the fourth and final time this season and is 9-3 in its past 12 games since March 4. Cleveland has won three straight home games over New York since 2021 and currently hold a four-game lead over the Knicks for the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference and home court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Could this game go to OT? If so, back the Cavs. In overtime games this season, the Cavs are 7-0, their most OT wins in a single season in franchise history and most by any NBA team this season. Dating back to last season, Cleveland has won 9 consecutive overtime games (the 7th-longest streak in NBA history).
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