The Dilemma of Resting Starters: Tom Thibodeau’s Discomfort in Late BlowoutsNovember 12, 2023
Tom Thibodeau sat Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson for the entire fourth quarter during Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, despite the Knicks holding a 21-point lead with 1:20 remaining. This move by Thibodeau is consistent with his pattern of playing his starters longer than necessary, as seen in previous games against the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Thibodeau’s rationale for this tactic stems from previous experiences in his coaching career, particularly a game in 2004 where he witnessed a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback by the Houston Rockets. He emphasized the importance of putting in maximum effort in every play, regardless of the score or lead, due to his belief that no lead is safe in the NBA.
Both Randle and Brunson expressed surprise at being benched for the entire fourth quarter, given their usual heavy minutes burdens. However, they remained mentally prepared to re-enter the game if needed. Thibodeau acknowledged the significance of giving his stars some rest, especially with a challenging back-to-back game against the Boston Celtics the following day.
Overall, Thibodeau’s strategy is aimed at finding a balance between giving his starters necessary rest, while also ensuring that the team is focused on improving and winning games. Both he and the players recognize the value of this approach in contributing to the team’s success.