CLEVELAND — Julius Randle was still playing, with the Knicks down by 23 points, when he went up for a dunk with barely two minutes remaining in their Game 2 blowout loss to the Cavaliers.
In Randle’s second game back after missing the final five contests of the regular season with a sprained ankle, the risk-reward of having the team’s leading scorer on the court at that time was dubious.
As he dunked, Randle absorbed a Flagrant 1 foul from Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, then crashed hard to the floor and landed on his back.
The Knicks’ lone All-Star insisted afterward that he’s “fine,” but his condition will warrant monitoring when the opening-round playoff series shifts to Madison Square Garden for Game 3 on Friday.
“At this point, it’s irrelevant. But I thought it was a little unnecessary,” Randle said after the Knicks’ 107-90 loss. “I understand playoff basketball. You don’t give up on plays and I respect that. I’m somebody who doesn’t give up on plays.
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“Typically when you make those type of plays you go across their body, not through them. But it’s fine. It’s irrelevant. We’ll go back to the Garden, and see him there.”
Said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau: “It’s playoffs. I’ll take a look at it. I saw a quick replay, but before I comment, I want to see it.”
Randle said he had asked Thibodeau to keep him in the game late in the fourth quarter after he had been sidelined for more than two weeks before returning in Game 1.
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“At that point,” Randle said, “I was just trying to get my legs under me and get a little rhythm.”
The Cavaliers had spoken for a couple of days about needing to match the Knicks’ physicality from Game 1, and they mostly did that, especially in the first half.
Randle finished the game with 22 points on 8-for-20 shooting, and he committed six of the Knicks’ 17 turnovers.
“I don’t think they bullied us. They just responded to our physicality. That’s what you’re supposed to do in a playoff game,” Randle said. “We came and took care of business in Game 1. And they responded. We weren’t expecting the series to be over in four [games] or whatever it is. We’re taking it a game at a time. So we just got to adjust and we’ll be fine.
“Obviously we could’ve played better after the first game. We definitely feel like we can play better now. But as a group we’re positive. We feel confident.”
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