SAN FRANCISCO — Knick’s coach Tom Thibodeau’s worst coaching trait is leaving in his key players far too late in routs. And on the flip side, Thibodeau also keeps his main guys late in blowouts to try to pull off a miracle.
There was no miracle Tuesday in the Mile High City — just a Mile High Mess.
Capping their 132-115 blowout loss to the Nuggets, Thibodeau’s decision to reinsert RJ Barrett with 3:50 left down 16, and keep him in until the final minute has backfired.
Barrett sprained his left ankle with 18 seconds left and the club still down 16. Barrett is expected to miss Thursday’s game with the Warriors — and perhaps a few more. Barrett missed nine games with an ankle sprain his rookie year of 2019-20.
Barrett has been their most productive player in the new year, averaging 22.3 points since Jan. 1 and supplanting Julius Randle as top dog. Barrett is averaging 18 points for the season.
Known for his durability, Barrett didn’t miss a single game last season and only sat out this year for COVID-19 protocols. Last season, he led the NBA in minutes played.
Barrett hobbled off the court Tuesday, got treatment late in the night in Denver and didn’t talk to the press. Meanwhile, Randle stuck up for Thibodeau, though he never said the coach made the right call. Randle said Thibodeau is “our leader” and “I’m just a soldier for him.”
“I’ll let ya’ll debate that,” Randle said. “The only thing that matters is what’s in our locker room and what we think as players. Like I said, I got Thibs’ back 100 percent. I trust him. And whatever he asks me to do, I’m going to do.”
Randle had left the contest with 51 seconds remaining — avoiding injury.
Quentin Grimes (knee), Mitchell Robinson (back) and Nerlens Noel (knee) — all of whom missed the Denver rout, are questionable for Thursday’s game.