Knicks' Tom Thibodeau impressed with team's resilience vs. Bucks: 'I thought a lot of guys stepped up'

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Julius Randle high fives Tom Thibodeau in white jersey
Julius Randle high fives Tom Thibodeau in white jersey

When the first quarter came to an end in Milwaukee, the Knicks found themselves down by almost 20 to the reigning NBA champions. Giannis Antetokounmpo and company were thrashing the Knicks, hitting almost every three ball they took and a 38-19 lead for the home team was the result.

But we all know these Knicks don’t quit in the sight of adversity. Tom Thibodeau would never allow it to happen.

By the end of the first half, the Knicks were just down seven, 63-56. Then, a third quarter ensued that turned the tides quickly, as the Knicks outscored the Bucks 32-20 to take a lead they wouldn’t give up through the end of the contest.

A huge win against the champs and Thibodeau couldn’t be anymore impressed with how everyone got involved to make it happen.

“Obviously you don’t want to get down like we did, but we did,” he told reporters after the game. “It’s a long game you got to keep fighting. Try to get it to a manageable number and I felt once we got going a little bit and we made a couple of hustle plays, that sorta galvanized us, gave us energy. Then we got it to 10, and once it gets to 10, you feel like you have a chance.

“I thought a lot of guys stepped up. I thought our bench gave us a great lift when they came in and they got it within reach. When the starters got back in the third, I thought they played with great intensity.”

Thibs added that he thought the Knicks’ rebounding, an area that has been lacking early to start the year, was much better. Did it help that Brook Lopez was hurt and unavailable? Probably. But Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel, as well as others like Julius Randle, stepped up in the paint whether it was on the offensive side of the ball or defensively on the board.

“The challenge is, with a guy like Giannis, you got to load up pretty good to him and they can make some threes and they did. You can’t get discouraged. You gotta keep going, you gotta make sure you’re protecting the paint but you gotta make sure you’re firing out and covering that line. So that requires you to do two, three, four things on the same play. There’s no relaxing.”

Another player that understood the assignment was Derrick Rose, scoring a season-high 23 points off the bench and a main reason the Knicks cut the deficit in the third quarter. Randle may have finished with a team-high 32, but it was Rose that got the spark going.

“What Derrick did was special,” Thibs said.

“I felt like we stayed resilient,” Rose added. “We knew what we had to do and that was to pick up the energy and the intensity. And of course, you don’t want to start off a game that way. But it is the NBA and every game is different. You just gotta keep working the game and that’s what we tell everyone on the sideline – keep working the game, chipping into the lead.”

He won’t call it this, but “Vintage Derrick Rose” is what many on the Twitterverse were viewing this performance from the 14-year vet as. He hit his pull ups, and even his signature reverse layup NBA fans have been seeing for quite some time now.

“They gave me my shot. Giving me a lot of room going under screens and that’s something I’ve been working on the whole time. Pulling up and just trusting my shot,” he said.

Overall, it was a game that could’ve easily pushed the Knicks into a three-game losing skid if they let the first quarter get them down. But they battled back, a theme that dates back to last season, and got the job done.

And of course, it makes it a little sweeter that the win comes against the champs on their home court.

“It’s big because it’s the next game and the next game was against the champs," Rose said.