The New York Knicks have shut down power forward Julius Randle for the final five games of the regular season because of an ankle injury.
New York Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle needs assistance standing up after suffering an ankle injury against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden. (Image: Getty)
The Knicks will reevaluate Randle in two weeks. They hope the NBA All-Star will heal in time for the postseason, which is slated to begin on April 15.
Julius is a fighter,” teammate Jalen Brunson told The Athletic. “His spirits are high. He’s going to try and get back as healthy as he can, as fast as he can. He’s a warrior.”
The Knicks currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 45-33 record. They trail the fourth-place Cavs by three games, but hold a 2.5-game lead over the sixth-place Brooklyn Nets.
With only four games remaining, the Knicks look like they’ll begin the postseason as the #5 seed.
Obi Toppin Next Man Up
Randle sustained a left ankle injury against the Miami Heat last week. He went down in the second quarter, and never returned to the game.
Randle had been an iron man for the Knicks this season, and appeared in every game prior to the injury. In 77 games this season, Randle led the Knicks with 25.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau promoted backup forward Obi Toppin to the starting lineup to fill in for Randle. Backup big man Jericho Sims is also expected to see a bump in playing time.
Randle missed the final two weeks of last season with a quad injury, and Toppin excelled as his replacement. Toppin averaged 20.3 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in the 10 games he started in place of Randle last April.
The Knicks selected Toppin, an All-American at Dayton, with the #8 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Toppin grew up in New York City, and the hometown product became an instant fan favorite at Madison Square Garden.
Thibodeau does not give a lot of playing time to rookies, so Toppin barely made an impact in his first season. Toppin finally cracked Thibodeau’s rotation in his second season. He averaged 9.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game off the bench last year. He also gained notoriety when he won the 2022 Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend.
Toppin regressed this season. His playing time shrunk, and he struggled across the board, averaging only 6.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 14.5 minutes of action per game. With Randle sidelined, Toppin has the chance to get his game back on track before the playoffs.
Jalen Brunson Cooking Sans Randle
The Knicks defeated the Cleveland Cavs with an impressive 14-point road victory on Friday. It was a true team effort, and seven members of the Knicks tallied double digits in scoring in their first game without Randle.
The win was important because the Knicks and Cavs are expected to square off in the first round of the playoffs. The Cavs have a near-lock on the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Knicks have the inside track to the #5 seed.
Point guard Jalen Brunson averages 24 points per game this season for the Knicks, and he torched the Cavs for a career-high 48-points. He knocked down seven 3-pointers and dished nine assists in the victory, all while nursing a minor hand injury.
There’s nothing that Brunson does that surprises you,” Thibodeau said after the win. “It’s a testament to how tough-minded he is. He’s so mentally tough, particularly when he has adversity. He’s nicked up a little bit, but he’s a machine, he just keeps going.”
Brunson outgunned Donovan Mitchell, who scored a team-high 42 points for the Cavs in the loss. The Knicks were in hot pursuit of Mitchell in the off-season, but they failed to acquire him in a trade with the Utah Jazz. The Cavs outbid the Knicks at the last second.
Brunson and Mitchell have a budding rivalry, which adds another level of excitement to a potential Knicks/Cavs series when the postseason begins.
Betting the Knicks: Randle Ripple
During the preseason, the Knicks were +15000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, according to DraftKings’ NBA futures board.
The Knicks were +8000 to win the championship last week, which marked their best title odds this season. However, their odds dipped to +10000 after Randle’s injury.
The Knicks are +3000 odds to win the Eastern Conference as the fifth-highest team on the board. They trail the Milwaukee Bucks (+145), Boston Celtics (+150), Philadelphia 76ers (+475), and Cleveland Cavs (+1500) in a fight to represent the east in the 2023 NBA Finals.
FiveThirtyEight estimates that the Knicks have a 2% chance to win the championship, and they have a 4% chance to advance to the NBA Finals.
If the Knicks win their first-round matchup, they’ll most likely face the #1 seed in the conference semifinals, which could be the Bucks or Celtics. The Knicks only won one playoff series — back in 2013 — since they made an appearance in the 2000 NBA Finals.
The Knicks are the sixth-best betting team in the NBA this season. They have a 43-32-3 record against the point spread, but they’re only 6-7 ATS in their previous 13 games.
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