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Tom Thibodeau's patience with starters finally runs out in Knicks' loss to Bucks

Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Knicks reacts

Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Knicks reacts in the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

OK, the party is over. Tom Thibodeau is losing patience.

The Knicks' coach is tired of hearing excuses. He’s tired of being asked to estimate just how long it is going to take his starters to jell. This is something he made profanely clear Wednesday night after the Knicks’ disappointing 112-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden.

"You know when it’s 10 games, they say it’s going to take 20," he said when asked about the starting unit coming together. "When it’s 20, you say 30. When it’s 30, you say 40. Before you know it, the season’s over. So that’s a bunch of [expletive]."

Julius Randle was the only Knicks starter to score in double figures in a game in which the inspired play of the bench almost made up for the very uninspired play of the starters.

The Knicks overcame a 24-point third-quarter deficit to tie the score at 89 in the fourth. They couldn’t withstand a barrage of three-pointers by the Bucks at the end of the game, though, and there was no repeat performance of the Knicks' win five days earlier in Milwaukee, when they turned a 21-point deficit into a 22-point lead in a 15-point victory.

The Knicks (7-5) have two new starters this season in Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. They totaled four points and 2-for-12 shooting Wednesday night. The starting unit as a whole shot 12-for-36.

No starters were made available to speak with reporters after the game, so it’s not known what they thought of Thibodeau’s comments.

There was a lot of talk about the starting unit taking a step forward chemistry-wise after the Knicks' win in Philadelphia on Monday. Walker came up with two big plays late in the game, and there was some hope that the team could build on that against the Bucks.

"It’s only going to get better," Walker said Monday of the team’s chemistry. "What are we, 10, 11 games in? It’s still so early, man. We’re still trying to figure each other out."

Thibodeau apparently is tired of everyone trying to figure each other out and clearly was ticked off that the Knicks had blown a golden opportunity against the defending NBA champions, who, in many ways, were there for the picking. They were missing starters Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton, and their players had every reason to be exhausted after winning a close game in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

One thing is for sure: Twelve games into the season, it’s impossible to get a read on the Knicks.

On some nights, they look capable of making a deep run into the playoffs. It’s hard not to be impressed with the way they have played Milwaukee. They’ve also beaten the 76ers twice and posted an impressive road win over the Bulls.

On other nights, it’s hard not to consider the way the Knicks have looked confused and uninspired as they’ve suffered ugly losses at home to the Magic, Raptors and Cavaliers. In their 126-109 loss to Cleveland on Sunday, the Knicks looked so lost that Randle announced after the game that he had to find a way to be a better leader.

The Knicks have dropped three straight at Madison Square Garden and are 2-4 at home.

"Right now we’re playing well on the road and not playing well at home," Thibodeau said. "We have to get that straightened out."

One gets the feeling he means sooner rather than later.

New York Sports