Against arguably the best center in the NBA, Tom Thibodeau stopped playing a center.
Predictably, it didn’t work out.
Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims both fouled out early in the fourth quarter, the product of them trying to stop Joel Embiid.
Nerlens Noel, who hasn’t played since Feb. 7, was listed available by the Knicks but never got off the bench. Thibodeau was cagey about the circumstances but a source said the veteran center, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal in the summer, is dealing with plantar fasciitis.
“He’s close,” Thibodeau said. “I want him to get through some practices first before we throw him back in there. At this point, what you don’t want is you’re in for a game and out for a game, in for a game, out for a game. So I want him to get healthy. It’s been that type of year where you’ve been in and out. Got to get to the point where he’s in.”
Taj Gibson also logged a DNP and Thibodeau, who is notoriously unforthcoming about injuries, claimed the 36-year-old is healthy.
So instead, Thibodeau used a small-ball lineup with Julius Randle at center. The Knicks were outscored 19-4 in the final seven minutes and were trounced by the Sixers.
Embiid finished with 37 points and took 27 foul shots, hitting 23 of them. He has emerged as a leading MVP candidate.
“I should’ve known it from last time he was going to come in more aggressive, especially at the Garden,” said Robinson, who fouled out in just 16 minutes. “This is the MVP, right? I should’ve been more focused and ready to play. He did what he had to do and I should’ve played better.”
FATHER FOUND SAFE
After he went missing for two weeks, Mitchell Robinson’s father was discovered in Missouri during a routine traffic stop, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
Robinson said he felt relieved after bringing attention to his father’s disappearance on social media. The father, Mitchell Robinson Jr., who was living in Florida, was flagged as a missing person when police ran his name.
“He was in Missouri. He could have told us,” the Knicks center said. “I guess he needed some time to himself. I’m happy he turned up safe. So I can focus on what I need to be worried about. Weight off my shoulders.”