How Julius Randle’s Obi Tobin front court pays off for the Knicks

DENVER – Everyone at Ball Arena should have known cam redish He was going to the cordon.

The red has been installed on the rim recently. When he gets there, it’s clear what comes next. The 22-year-old loves his stride at the Euros, an inside-out leap that helps him slip in former defenders who may know better but still can’t do much about it. aliasing New York Knicks It may not be so predictable these days, but at least in one game with two minutes to go in a three-point game, what we all thought we saw coming did happen.

Red sent a pass from Julius Randel at the top of the key. He went twice left-handed, and Yoro climbed to the basket and flipped on a right-handed layup to increase New York’s lead over Denver Nuggets to five.

However, this play was not about Reddish. Instead, it was a matter of two players on either side: the one in the left corner, Obi TobinAnd the one on the right is Randall.

Reddish isn’t shy about experimenting with his European steps. Problems come when one defender runs past and accidentally bumps into another, or maybe two more. Paint can get crowded for nix. But in this successful exercise, there was no formidable opponent to get in Reddish’s way.

It was a rare Knicks sight: open lane.

This was no accident. Reddish had Tobin on his left, and Randall on his right, Emmanuel Quickly On the wing, cut Galen BronsonSpecifically, there are no dwelling centers of the coating blocking its path to the annulus.

New York left their spots on the bench for the final drive on Wednesday in Denver. The Knicks trailed by 10 when Randle joined Tobin on the floor with eight minutes remaining. They outscored the Nuggets 20-7 from there and won 106-103. After allowing 145 runs in a home loss to an upstart Oklahoma City Thunder On Sunday, the Knicks (8-7) won twice in a row: one in Utah and one in Denver.

The way the win over the Nuggets went down begs the question: Does coach Tom Thibodeau continue to arm the Tobin-Randell duo when the Knicks fall behind? After all, this isn’t the first time the pairing has sent New York back from a major deficit. And it happened in different shouts.

Just two weeks ago in Philadelphia, the Knicks came back from the bottom 12 in the fourth quarter to up 76ersThanks to the double work of Toppin and Randle. They had some uninspired moments as well, but Thibodeau is starting to build up a sample size.

Toppin and Randle have shared the floor for 51 minutes so far this season, more than halfway to their total minutes played together in 2021-22. The Knicks lead opponents by one point in those minutes.

Wednesday’s comeback marked Randle’s best performance of the season. He was more feisty on defense than he’s been in ages, beating out the Nuggets and hitting passes. He finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals (three in the fourth quarter).

Thibodeau had always been reluctant to play Toppin and Randle together. Coach’s ethos is defense, and he bases his schemes around removing paint first. Thibodeau wasn’t enamored with rim diving centers as much as he appreciated ones that protected rims, and all of the Knicks’ shot-blocking tackles hang around the hoop on offense as well.

Will Obi Tobin and Julius Randle see more time together on the court? (Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today)

But conditions are changing around the Tobin Rundle frontcourt. The Knicks could make up for the lack of edge protection with better perimeter defense, which they got Wednesday from Quickley and Reddish. Preventing shots is not as important if getting into the paint is a chore. Randle played his best defensive game of the season.

Meanwhile, Tobin’s offense has become too powerful to ignore.

Mitchell Robinson He came out with a sprained right knee. Thibodeau says it works day in and day out. It is no coincidence that the Philly game where Randle and Tobin played together this season is the same game in which Robinson was injured. But whether or not Robinson takes minutes at center, the Knicks can’t look at Tobin the same way he did in the past. Shooting 3 points for a third-year forward changes the dynamic.

During the few minutes Toppin and Randle played together last season, the teams didn’t feel the need to guard Toppin on the arc. Now that he’s hit over 40 percent on his 3-point attempts, they do.

The three-point Knicks are in desperate need of spacing, especially with their two best long-range shooters, Evan Fournier And the Quentin Grimes, now completely out of rotation. Jalen Bronson needs those lanes for his unorthodox moves in his position. RJ Barrett He needs it in his slashes. Reddish needs them to step euro.

Thibodeau was not aggressive using Toppin and Randle together. He did it when the team was behind or when the opponents were getting small. For example, on Wednesday, he would have justified using the duo earlier, when he was the starting center for the Nuggets on the night, DeAndre JordanHe was still in court. It wasn’t Jordan’s offense to punish the Knicks down and the veteran big man had a hard time guarding the perimeter of either Tobin or Randle. Instead, Thibodeau waited until Denver was running late, then matched his size.

“I thought it would give us energy, and that’s what happened,” Thibodeau said. “Just having the ability to do some switching, that kind of thing, and using our sport, which we were trying to get. They were switching, so what we wanted to do was get more pieces on the floor.”

Robinson’s return, whenever that happens, will cut into someone’s minutes. Isaiah Hartenstein I will go back to the bench. Jericho Sims It will probably get out of rotation.

A full-strength roster could mean Thibodeau back 48 minutes from his traditional positions. Or maybe he saw something here that he thinks works. After all, Randle’s minutes don’t diminish, which means the only way for a rookie Toppin to get more playing time is to run it alongside the former All-Star.

But as long as Robinson remains sidelined, it doesn’t seem like we’ve seen the last of Toppin-Randle.

“I love it,” said Thibodeau. “There have been ups and downs with it, but maybe that’s our team. Obviously the Philly game was very good. We’ll keep looking at that.”

(top image from Kentavius ​​Caldwell Pope and Julius Randel: Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today)

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