December 29, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, United States; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) is defended by Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Walton Jr. (25) during the second quarter at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks bench was a big reason for their last victory.
When the Knicks face the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday night, New York’s reserves are expected to take even more of the load.
For the first time this season, the Knicks will be without top scorer Julius Randle against the Thunder.
Randle entered the NBA’s health and safety protocol, the Knicks announced Thursday.
In Wednesday’s 94-85 win in Detroit, Randle struggled for the second straight game, making just 2 of 11 on the field and missing his three tries by 3 points for a season-high five points.
But the Knicks ‘reserves scored 65 points, led by Alec Burks’ 34, to avoid what would have been a devastating loss to a woefully shrunken Pistons team.
“We understand our job,” Burks said. “We understand that when the starters don’t have it it’s a team and we just have to take the next man.”
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after the victory Randle, who is just 7 of 31 in his last two games, was “shocked”.
But still, the Knicks enter Friday’s game on a three-game winning streak, the last two on the road to begin a four-game road trip.
The Knicks’ rotation had been relatively untouched by the recent wave of players affected by the COVID-19 protocol.
Prior to Randle’s entry, New York only had Nerlens Noel, Jericho Sims and Wayne Selden – only Noel averaging over eight minutes per game – in protocol.
Oklahoma City had similarly avoided problems until recently before five players – Darius Bazley, Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Aleksej Pokusevski and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl – and head coach Mark Daigneault entered protocol. over the past few days. Assistant coach Dave Bliss, who took over the coaching duties earlier this season when Daigneault briefly left the team for the birth of his child, is also in protocol, leaving Mike Wilks as interim head coach. of the Thunder.
Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant is also in protocol, according to the New York Post.
The Thunder could also do without their leading scorer on Friday.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed Wednesday’s 115-97 loss to Phoenix with a pain in his right ankle. Kenrich Williams, another key player, sprained his ankle in the loss.
The recent fleeting roster opened the door for rookie guard Aaron Wiggins, who averaged just 3.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in 15.4 minutes in his first 13 NBA games while bouncing back into the game. and out of rotation.
Wiggins has started the last four games, and over the last three, he’s averaged 20 points and 6.3 rebounds in over 32 minutes. It also has an impact on the defensive end.
“The pace has slowed down a bit for me,” Wiggins said. “I adapt to all of the physicality, the speed, the upbeat tempo of it all.”
Friday’s game is the first of two meetings between the teams this season.
The Knicks and the Thunder shared their two meetings last season.
New York’s Evan Fournier is considered doubtful after missing Wednesday’s game with pain in his right ankle.
– Media at field level