Photo: Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports
Julius Randle fumed after the buzzer sounded. The Knicks restrained him from going after the refs after referee Scott Foster called traveling on him that prevented him from taking a shot to tie the game and James Harden iced the game by shooting two free throws to lead the Nets to a 117-112 victory over the Knicks Monday night at Barclays Center.
He didn’t say much about the call on his Zoom call presser. What was there to be said? His behavior said it all after the game on how he felt about the call.
Debate all you want whether Randle traveled or not and if the call cost the Knicks a chance to go to overtime at the time they trailed 115-112 with 3.2 seconds to go in the game. From this point of view, it was not why the Knicks lost. They lost because they couldn’t shoot and they don’t have that star power to beat the Nets, who have two closers in Kyrie Irving and Harden that can make shots.
Honestly, did you in your heart of hearts actually think Randle would have made that shot? He is a streaky shooter, and Irving did play good defense on him in the end. I doubt he would have made it. It should haven’t come down to that anyway.
The Knicks lost since they shot 37.5% in the first half while the Nets shot 62.5%. It explained why the Knicks trailed the Nets 67-55 at halftime. Whenever the Nets needed a shot, Irving and Harden delivered for them whether it’s the first half or surviving the Knicks’ gritty comeback attempt. The Knicks could not get it from anyone when it mattered.
The Nets played to their talent level in beating a team they should be beating. The Knicks played to their gritty identity by not giving up and making a game out of it. It was what anyone expected.
Understand this: This will be more of the same until the Knicks add talent to their roster. This means getting a go-to scorer and several good shooters.
We all knew the offense would be a problem for the Knicks heading to this season. They don’t have guys who can shoot, and it showed in their two meetings against the Nets this season.
They can grit their way to victories against lesser to middling talented teams, but against a team like the Nets, Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks, they are going to have a hard time getting a win. They actually need to shoot lights out, and they don’t have that guy who can do it.
Tom Thibodeau, Leon Rose and William Wesley understand that. They talked about searching for a star player in the free agent or trade market since they got here. They will continue to explore all avenues to get a guy like Bradley Beal or Lonzo Ball. They came to the Knicks with the idea of putting on a super team as they see from a team that plays across the East River in Brooklyn. They know that it’s the only way this franchise can end a championship drought that is 48 years and counting.
It would behoove the Knicks brain trust to get a Victor Oladipo or Ball in the trade deadline. They need a star player if they can win a playoff series or even make the playoffs.
This roster should be good enough to make the playoffs since the Eastern Conference is weak. But there are questions about whether or not this roster is good enough to go far in the playoffs.
Don’t fool yourself thinking the Knicks can make this a seven-game series against the Nets. I like the Nets’ chances to sweep the Knicks in four games than the Knicks making this a six or seven-game series.
The Knicks would be wise to avoid the Nets altogether in the first round.
If they are ever going to beat the Nets or an elite team next season and beyond, there has to be a major move this offseason. No one on the roster is untouchable. If the Knicks have to give up RJ Barrett or Julius Randle to get a player such as Oladipo, Beal or Ball, so be it.
Star power matters. It draws a fine line between a middling team and a championship-contending team. The Nets and Lakers proved to be proof positive of that. Outside of the 2004 Pistons, no NBA team won a championship as a little engine that could. This isn’t hockey.
If the Knicks have a star that could make shots, maybe they beat the Nets. Heck, they might have even gotten a call in the end.
Monday night reinforced everything the Knicks need to do this offseason.
The Knicks’ Big Three Front Office must find their Big Three stars to even the score with the Nets.