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Tom Thibodeau doesn't believe the New York Knicks starters, who lead the league in minutes played together, need more games to develop decent chemistry. They should already have it.
Thibodeau benched his starting lineup for the entirety of the fourth quarter on Wednesday night against the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks. The Knicks trailed, 82-66, and went on to lose by a similar margin, 112-100. But the bench erased a 22-point deficit to tie the game with five minutes left.
Afterward, Thibodeau dismissed the notion that Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson needed more time together to develop chemistry.
Tom Thibodeau on the notion the Knicks' starters need at least 20 games to gel:
"When you get to 20, you say 30. And you get to 30, you say 40. And then before you know it, the season's over. So it's a bunch of bulls**t" pic.twitter.com/5xFXmg3t7H
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) November 11, 2021
"You know what they say: When it's 10 games, they say you need 20," Thibodeau said. "When you say 20, they say you need 30; at 30, you say 40.
"And before you know it, the season is over. So that's a bunch of bulls***."
The Knicks starting lineup has played more minutes together (204.8) than any other five-player grouping in the league so far this season. But they have a -14.4 net rating and 119.3 defensive rating, which is seven points worse than the Memphis Grizzlies, the league's worst in the category, have as a collective team.
None of the starters spoke to reporters after the game, per ESPN. The reserve group of Obi Toppin, Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Immanuel Quickley and Taj Gibson played the final 2:01 of the third quarter together and went on a 29-7 run. It erased a 22-point deficit to tie the game at 89-all with 5:06 to play.
The Bucks hit seven 3-pointers, their only made baskets of the time frame, over the next four minutes to finish the game.
"We were just searching," Thibodeau said, in explaining his decision to keep the reserves on the court, via ESPN. "Once we got the intensity into the game, got some stops, shared the ball, got some easy scores, got a good rhythm going, I thought the bench played well."
That reserve lineup has played 61 minutes together, second-most for the Knicks, and has statistically performed much better. They have a 19.9 net rating and 93.5 defensive rating. It's the only one of the four Knicks lineups to have a defensive rating under 104.5. The Golden State Warriors lead the NBA with a 99.2 defensive rating.
The Knicks (7-5) have won nearly every road contest (5-1), but have struggled at Madison Square Garden (2-4), where they hosted the Bucks on Wednesday. It's been an inconsistent first month for the squad. New York is back on the road to play the Charlotte Hornets (6-7) on Friday.