Knicks' Julius Randle tries to get past Milwaukee Bucks' Brook...

Knicks' Julius Randle tries to get past Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Milwaukee. Credit: AP/Morry Gash

GREENBURGH — It seems that everyone in the NBA has been careful — very careful — to stay away from anything negative when it comes to talking about the league’s In-Season Tournament.

Yet, when Julius Randle was confronted with the reality that his team’s so-called reward for advancing into the quarterfinals was extra road games against Milwaukee and Boston, he couldn’t completely mask his feelings.

“We got five versus both teams]?” Randle said. “What do you want me to say, that’s expletive]?”

Well, yes, many Knicks fans sort of do. Schedule-wise, the Knicks are the NBA’s biggest losers in the inaugural season of the tournament.

The Knicks, who lost a quarterfinal game in Milwaukee on Tuesday, play at Boston Friday. Both games count in the regular standings, meaning the Knicks will be the only team in the NBA that plays 42 games, instead of 41, on the road.

What’s more? Those two extra games are against the Celtics (15-5) and the Bucks (15-7), the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, meaning the Knicks will play both of the elite teams five times this season.

Contrast that with the Nets, who like the Knicks went 3-1 in group play but failed to advance on point differential. By not going to the quarterfinals, the Nets were rewarded with games against the Hawks and Wizards.

“Life isn’t fair,” said Jalen Brunson when asked if he thought the situation was fair. “ . . . It is what it is. It’s all about how you respond to certain situations.”

The situation the Knicks now have to respond to is how to bounce back from a 146-122 pounding in Milwaukee. The Knicks, a team that prides themselves on defense, let the Bucks score a season high in points and shoot 60.5% (23 of 38) from three-point range.

If that weren’t enough bad news for the Knicks, the Celtics’ Kristaps Porzingis says he is going to play Friday.

Porzingis, who has missed four games with a calf injury, made that declaration after participating in a five-on-five scrimmage at practice Wednesday.

Porzingis scored 30 points against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in the season opener and 21 points against them on Nov. 14 in Boston. Boston won both games.

“Just another really tough task for us,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of the matchup with the Celtics. “We’re going to have to be at our best defensively.”

A tough task that the Knicks could have avoided, say, if they hadn’t had a thrilling comeback win against Miami in one of the group games.

Thibodeau admitted there are still some quirks that need to be worked out with the tournament.

“I’m sure after it’s all said and done, there will be a deep dive on it,” Thibodeau said. “OK, overall these were some of the positives, and these were some of the negatives. How can we tweak it and make it better? Anytime you do something the first time, it’s not going to be perfect.”

Notes & quotes: Thibodeau didn’t seem worried about recent comments Quentin Grimes made concerning his lack of opportunities in the offense. Said Thibodeau: “Some of it is just frustration. We’ve got to get him to play better. It’s really that simple.”

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