“Attention to game plan, adjustments. All that type of stuff,” Randle said after the Knicks’ 113-96 loss. “For me, it’s great. Most people get discouraged, whatever it is. I just try to stay even keel. I get encouraged by learning because it’s only going to make me better. Last year, coming where I came from (experiencing) last season, come back this season for this postseason, it’s learning experience. And I’ll come back better next game and no matter how long we play.”
The list of reasons for New York’s poor playoff performance is long. But it’s fair to say that Randle’s shooting is at or near the top.
The 2020-21 Most Improved Player has missed 53 of his 73 shot attempts in the series. He’s 8 for 23 from beyond the arc.
As bad as the numbers are, there were signs of improvement on Sunday.
Tom Thibodeau had wanted Randle and the Knicks to make quicker decisions against Atlanta’s defense.
The coach credited Randle for making the adjustment on Sunday.
“I liked a lot of the plays that Julius made today,” Thibodeau said. “I felt this all along, it’s sort of Julius’ makeup as he goes through things, he always gets better and better. That’s who he is. And so as long as he is making quick decisions, good things are going to happen … I thought he did a great job with that. We have to play an all-around game though. We have to play both sides of the ball. We have to rebound the ball. We have to play defense. But I like a lot of the looks we got particularly in the first half.”
Randle’s improved decision-making didn’t help the Knicks’ bottom line. The Hawks reeled off a 15-5 run to start the second half and a 20-10 run to end the third quarter. Those stretches crushed New York.
Randle finished with 23 points on 7-for-19 shooting and added 10 rebounds and seven assists. He also had five turnovers.
“The big thing for me was to be more decisive,” Randle said. “Misses and makes really don’t matter. Just continue to trust the work I put in. I was more decisive and have something to build on. Obviously, you want to come out with the win. You’re never satisfied with an individual performance. You want to win games. I’d rather play bad and win. Regardless, I have to be a lot better. The team has to be a lot better. It’s a learning experience. Regardless, we have Game 5 at home. That’s all I can focus on.”
Randle’s point about learning through experience shouldn’t be dismissed. He said several times this season that he learned a lot in his first season in New York. Through hard work in the offseason, he came back a different player this season.
So maybe Randle will be better in the playoffs as he gains more experience.
But you also can’t ignore what you’ve seen from Randle so far in his first postseason.
How much it factors into the Knicks’ approach with Randle this offseason remains to be seen.
After his strong play in the 2020-21 regular season, the Knicks had obviously been fully committed to trying to keeping Randle beyond his current contract. It’s unknown if the club preferred to offer Randle an extension this offseason or re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Will the Knicks change their thinking after Randle’s play in the past four games? I doubt it.
But will the last four games to factor into the way they approach a potential extension for Randle? And will it factor into how they approach building the rest of the roster?
That’s something worth keeping an eye on.
These are issues for August, though.
At the moment, the Knicks need to worry about winning Game 5 at home to extend the series and change the narrative on what — so far — has been a mostly woeful playoff run.