New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau finally pulled the plug on Elfrid Payton as the starting point guard in Game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks, inserting Derrick Rose into the starting lineup. Thibodeau technically first made the move at halftime of Game 2 when he had Rose start the second half of that victory.
Thibs explained afterward why he made the decision:
“You always have to do what you feel is best for your team,’’ Thibodeau said, via New York Post Knicks beat writer Marc Berman. “Sometimes it’s matchups. Elfrid’s a critical part of the team. He’s had a very good year for us. It’s just also, like, what we’re looking at, and what we think gives us our best chance right now.
“We’ve asked everyone to sacrifice and put the team first, and he’s done that. We have great veteran leadership and guys have sacrificed a lot, whether it’s starting, not starting, shots, rotation, not rotation. But this team has been a very together team from start to finish.’’
Payton’s mom clearly wasn’t happy with the move, but the guard has been scuffling for a long time. Rose stepped up to the plate in Game 3, going for 30 points in 39 minutes of action. Unfortunately, the veteran guard got no help in a 105-94 loss. With Rose in the starting lineup, as well as Taj Gibson with Nerlens Noel not totally 100%, the Knicks’ rotations were totally different. That’s something they’ll have to adjust to in Game 4 and beyond, assuming the lineup stays the same.
Of course, simply getting better performances from Julius Randle and RJ Barrett will go a long way toward New York having more success. Randle has had a real rough go of it in this series, and the Knicks won’t advance past the Hawks if their All-Star doesn’t step up to the plate.
Thibodeau finally made the right decision to make the change at point guard. Now the rest of the Knicks must get the job done.