GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Julius Randle reacted calmly but directly as he sat in the tiny interview room at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse following Tuesday's Game 2 loss. He was still feeling the pain from the late-game flagrant foul by Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen that sent him crashing into the first row of the stands, and after calling his thoughts on it irrelevant and the foul unnecessary, he concluded with one line worth remembering.
“We’ll go back to the Garden,” Randle said, “and see him there.”
And while Randle may forgive, the 19,812 fans crowded into Madison Square Garden certainly will not. If the Garden crowd was looking for a villain, the amiable Cavs center may have inserted himself into the mix alongside Donovan Mitchell, who the Knicks and fans feel spurned by the failed trade pursuit of the summer. And then there's Darius Garland, who talked tough after Game 1 and backed it up in Game 2.
Randle hit the floor hard when Allen took him down trying to defend a breakaway dunk from behind, but he shrugged off any after-effects of the fall.
"I’m built for these kind of battles,” Randle said after practice on Thursday. “That’s why you put so much time in the weight room. I put a lot into my body for recovery and stuff like that. So my kids beat me up worse.”
Having had time to watch the film, Randle was asked if he thought the play was clean. "Does it even matter at this point? My [butt] hurts, my elbow hurts, and I’ve got to get ready to play for tomorrow. So it don’t matter at this point. I’m ready to go.”
Quentin Grimes added: “I mean, it’s the playoffs, kind of what you expect. We definitely took note of that. Last minute of the game how they went down with Julius. Everybody is going to have each other’s back, no matter who it is. Could be the first guy on the team or the 15th guy, I’m going to have the guys' back for sure. I feel like knowing that we’ll come out with a different sense of urgency in Game 3 for sure."
To a man, the Knicks seemed to convey that message: While the Cavs entered Game 2 with desperation to even the series in Cleveland, they wouldn’t be bringing more intensity than the Knicks for Game 3 in what promises to be a raucous atmosphere.
The same kind of reaction that the Hawks' Trae Young was welcomed with at the Garden in 2021 figures to now be waiting for Allen and Mitchell.
“The thing is, it’s always an advantage to play at home if you’re giving them things to cheer about,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But if you’re relying on them to win the game they can’t win the game for you. They can bring energy to the game. We know we have we feel the best arena, best fans, best city. So go out there and play the best you can, do it together and play smart. If we do that we know our fans will respond to that. They always have.”
“Yeah, it can be good or bad, depending on how you use it,” Randle said. “The crowd’s going to be on our side, it’s going to be a lot of fun. MSG’s going to be rocking. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be hard to talk. The floor’s going to be shaking, all that different type of stuff. It’ll definitely be a cool atmosphere to play in. You’ve just got to stay poised, stay poised out there, be in the moment. Realize what you have to do. The game is still the same. It’s still the same game, regardless of everything that’s going on out there.”
Randle seemed ready for a return home, laughing through much of the media session in a lighter mood than usual.
“It’s a lot of fun for me,” Randle said. “Probably having the most fun that I’ve had in my nine-year career in the league. Just the game-to-game adjustments, the gamesmanship, the intensity, all that different type of stuff. It’s fun for me because it’s a test on my mental, which I feel great, on our team as well. I don’t know. I just enjoy it. I enjoy the challenge. I look forward to it. I’m excited.”