The New York Knicks eliminated the Cleveland Cavaliers with a resounding 4-1 series victory in their first-round playoff series, but didn’t have the same success in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat. The Knicks put up a fight, but in the end, they didn’t have what it took to get by a battle-tested Heat team, and they ended up getting eliminated 4-2 after losing Game 6 on Friday night.
This was a pretty ugly offensive series for both teams, but the Knicks saw pretty much everything that went right for them against the Cavs go wrong for them against the Heat. They struggled to create any source of consistent offense aside from Jalen Brunson, and with nobody else consistently contributing, Miami was eventually able to get past them.
While the Knicks managed to exceed expectations in a way this season, nobody is going to be happy with how their season came to and end in the playoffs. As a result, it could make for an interesting offseason, as the team has to figure out how to take the next step forward. But before we turn our attention to the offseason, let’s first look back and see which three players are most to blame for the Knicks season-ending series loss to the Heat.
3. Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson certainly isn’t the most important player to the Knicks success, but he failed to make any sort of real impact in this series. Robinson had a big height advantage over everyone on the Heat, which should have allowed him to anchor the paint on both ends of the floor. Instead, Bam Adebayo worked him for pretty much the entire series.
Robinson’s per game stats aren’t particularly impressive (5.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 0.7 APG, 55 FG%) as he failed to capitalize on easy paint-scoring opportunities, and was often clogging lanes for his teammates since he wasn’t scoring. Defensively, Robinson, who is one of the better shot-blockers in the league, didn’t even average a block per game, which was another huge letdown for New York.
Again, Robinson isn’t the main reason for New York’s struggles in this series, but his team needed a lot more from him. Robinson’s flaws were on full display throughout this series, which isn’t particularly good for a guy who seems hellbent on overstating his impact every chance he can. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for him with the Knicks this offseason.
2. RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett always shows glimpses of just how good he can be, only to counter that by going through stretches where he looks unplayable. That was a pretty accurate summary of this series for Barrett, and fans are beginning to wonder whether or not he is actually capable of being a key piece on a championship caliber team.
Barrett’s numbers in this series were pretty much what you’d expect from him (20.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 42.7 FG%) and while he had some strong outings, he also had stretches where, again, he simply looked like he didn’t belong anywhere near the court for New York. It continues a shocking trend of inconsistency Barrett has experienced again and again early in his career.
The main reason Barrett is on this list, though, is because of his Game 6 outing (11 PTS, 2 REB, 1 AST, 1/10 FGM) that may have cost New York a chance to send this back to Madison Square Garden for Game 7. Had Barrett been able to hit his shots, there’s a decent chance that the Knicks win this game. Instead, Barrett will enter the offseason with an awful taste in his mouth that will likely stick around for months.
1. Julius Randle
Ever since joining the Knicks, Julius Randle has been, statistically speaking, the worst playoff performer in the NBA. There wasn’t much that he did throughout this series to dispell that notion either. Randle may have been dealing with an ankle injury, but that doesn’t justfity his atrocious series against the Heat.
Randle’s per game stats over five games (he missed Game 1) will show you right away why the Knicks lost this series (18.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 41.1 FG%). Randle is one of the Knicks best players, if not the best entirely. Yet he went completely vanished against Miami, missing tons of shots, showing no effort on either side of the ball, and generally looking like he didn’t want to be playing for New York.
Even if he wanted to hide from his poor showings, there’s no way that would be possible in the crazy New York sports media sector. When one of your star players plays as poorly as Randle just played, you have virtually no shot of winning in the postseason. You can’t solely blame one player for a team’s struggles, but Randle was a huge letdown in this series, and his future with the Knicks may suddenly be up in the air.
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