From Peter Botte:
The Knicks were not the most depleted team on the floor Saturday night in Milwaukee, but the injury news grew worse for them as the night progressed.
Already playing without All-Star forward Julius Randle, the Knicks lost starting center Mitchell Robinson for an extended period for a second time this season. Robinson broke his right foot during the first quarter to put a heavy damper on the Knicks’ 102-96 win over the injury-riddled Bucks, who were missing two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and three other starters.
“Obviously, they care about each other a lot. Mitchell’s been terrific for us, so you hate to see it,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. “It’s a very close-knit group. You feel for Mitchell because of all the work he’s put in. … You feel for a teammate and that’s part of the game. You have to deal with it as best as you can.”
Alec Burks scored 21 points with 10 rebounds and Derrick Rose contributed 13 points in 29 minutes in his return to the Knicks’ lineup for the first time since Feb. 28 following a positive COVID-19 result. RJ Barrett also scored 21 points and Immanuel Quickley (13) nailed four 3-pointers as the Knicks moved two games over .500 (24-22) for the first time since they were 5-3 on Jan. 6.
I thought it was cute how Botte played into the Bucks’ “injury-depleted” narrative when this was clearly just a schedule loss for them, the second night of a back-to-back before they headed out for a road trip. But no, conveniently, all of their top players all got “injured” out of nowhere. Suuuuuuuure.
Anyhow, for a schedule loss, the Knicks made it way closer than it should have been, but obviously this Knicks team is built around Randle in a way that better teams are not built around their best player. This is more akin to when the Wizards play without Bradley Beal, so this was definitely not a cream puff once Randle went out. It should have been a win, no question about it, but once Randle went down, it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
It was pretty on brand for Rose to return to action after missing so much time and instantly putting up 15 shots, but eh, I’d still prefer him to Elfrid Payton (which is more a statement about Elf than Rose). Quickley dished out five assists, which was big (although he deferred to Rose a bit more than you’d probably want). If Quickley gets out of this recent shooting slump, that’d be huge.
After the Heat on Monday, the Knicks get another nice schedule break, with the shitty Timberwolves and the shitty Pistons bookending the depleted Mavericks, so this could be the start of a really nice stretch if Randle gets back healthy.
Mitch’s injury was terrible news, but obviously, as we’ve seen, while Mitch is the best of the Knick centers, they have a very good backup center in Noel who is a fine fill-in and Taj is not a bad back-up back-up center. So I’m not too concerned there. It hurts the team, but their depth there is strong. It’s not like, say, Randle going down, ya know?