The Knicks are leaving Miami trailing the Heat three games to one in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a seemingly unsurmountable road back from the brink of elimination.
If the team didn’t seem dejected enough on the court in the fourth quarter of their Game 4 loss on Monday night, then they certainly were after the game. When Julius Randle was asked how the Heat were able to so thoroughly outrebound the Knicks in the final quarter, grabbing seven offensive rebounds to New York’s one, Randle replied, “Maybe they want it more. I don’t know.”
"Maybe they want it more. I don't know. That's who we've been all year and we've gotta find a way to step up and make those plays if we want to keep this season alive"
– Julius Randle on the Heat being the team to come up with offensive rebounds and loose balls pic.twitter.com/wqaJpoAcpj
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) May 9, 2023
The comments are disheartening to hear from any player, let another your supposed leader. However, what makes the comments increasingly frustrating for Knicks fans is that Randle himself seemed to want it far less than the Heat over the two games in Miami.
Understanding that Randle is battling an ankle injury that would likely have kept him out of regular season games, there have been far too many instances of the power forward not exhibiting the effort you would expect from an All-Star in a must-win situation. The thread below from Frank Barrett highlights just a few of those instances from Game 4.
I warn y'all, this is the most disgusting thread I'll ever make. But I had to watch this twice, and so do you. Because, friends, it was so much worse the second time. The NYK lost by 8, here are the mental and effort lapses responsible. @FrankBarrett119 here with a gm4, a thread: pic.twitter.com/D91RpFoyKJ
— The Strickland (@TheStrickland) May 9, 2023
Those clips are a perfect example of the Heat playing as if they want it more than the Knicks. Even though the Knicks came into the series as the team who’s built its success on the back of grit and sheer determination, none of that has seemed present in the last two games, and it starts with the performance and attitude of their leader.
While Randle had turned a corner with his mental fortitude and effort for much of this season, he seems to have taken a step backward in the playoffs. The two games in Miami have showcased the old version of Julius Randle who throws his hands up when he’s frustrated with a play and takes himself out of plays completely rather than hustle back after his teammates make mistakes.
Randle’s poor defense has already been an issue for much of the season, with the Knicks allowing 5.6 more points per possession when he’s on the court, but that has only gotten worse in the playoffs and Randle hasn’t brought the offense to counteract the net negative on defense.
If Randle isn’t healthy enough to play at his normal level then it’s up to Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau to make the decision to limit his minutes or sit him out. New York will need every ounce of effort in every game the rest of the way if they have any hope of keeping their season alive.
Having their supposed leader wonder whether the other team simply wants it more as he gives poor effort on the court is not a good start to this upcoming stretch of must-win games.