With 8:19 left in the preseason schedule, a time when most teams might be trying to run out the clock to head into the regular season as healthy as possible, Tom Thibodeau was steaming.
Frustrated with his team for sure but also angry about a no-call, he shouted at the officials until he was hit with a technical foul. Maybe the most surprising part of it wasn’t that he got the tech but that he didn’t get another. As he said Wednesday, preseason, practice, playoffs — "Everything matters to me."
If he was in midseason form, it might have been brought on by the fact that his team wasn’t. But after trailing by 19 points in the third quarter and 11 when Thibodeau picked up the technical, the Knicks beat Washington, 115-113, on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
With a hustling unit featuring Obi Toppin, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett in the frontcourt with Derrick Rose and Quentin Grimes, the Knicks turned the game around down the stretch and finally took the lead on a pair of free throws by Randle with 48 seconds left.
After the Wizards tied it, Randle isolated for the final possession and drained a jumper over Daniel Gafford as time expired, setting off a celebration that seemed ready for the regular season.
Rose had 28 points and six assists in 28:56 for the Knicks, who trailed by 18 in the first minute of the fourth quarter but outscored the Wizards 40-23 in the period to go 4-0 in the preseason. Randle added 21 points and 10 rebounds and Barrett had 18 points.
Mitchell Robinson returned to his first game action since March 27 and provided a burst of energy. Robinson, who Thibodeau had said would play limited minutes, saw that definition stretched as he logged 26 minutes, 34 seconds. He appeared exhausted but enthusiastic.
"Overall, I felt great,’’ he said. "Have to work on getting my touch back and conditioning. That’s the main thing . . . I felt really tired. Not as tired as you would have thought. It was bad, but not that bad.’’
"Really, the way we’re looking at it is big picture," Thibodeau said. "When he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go. So he’s had a bunch of progressions to get through to get to this point. This is the next one, to play in a game. And then we’ll gradually add minutes as he can handle them and as his conditioning improves.
"As much as he’s done, and he’s done a great job with the extra work — he comes back at night and gets the second workout in — he’s done an unbelievable job. But still, it’s not the intensity of a game, it’s not the contact of an NBA game. So he has to get accustomed to that again."
Thibodeau clearly has wanted to set a tone, the same one that he preaches in the regular season and practices. The only players to get a breather in the preseason were Randle, who missed the second game to remain in New York for the birth of his son; Kemba Walker, who sat out Wednesday, and Alec Burks, who got the day off Friday.
Notes & quotes: The Knicks waived Dwayne Bacon, who was in camp on a non-guaranteed deal. According to a source, as first reported by The Athletic, they will sign Luka Samanic to a two-way contract. Samanic, 21, was a first-round pick by the Spurs in 2019, but the 6-11 power forward was waived this week.Samanic has offensive skills, and there were a number of interested teams when he was let go.
The Knicks still have one roster spot available, and Thibodeau has praised Wayne Selden throughout the preseason.
"All the guys that are there do [have a shot at the spot]," he said. "For that last spot, it’s who fits our team the best. That’s a role that’s important for our team. It’s more of a practice role, being ready, what do you bring to practice every day and when you’re called upon, being ready to go in there. We’re going to continue to look to see what’s available and continue to do what’s best for our team."