Josh Hart – “Pleasant surprise” if OG Anunoby and Julius Randle return

NEW YORK – After Oklahoma City Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander broke New York Knicks hearts with a jumper with 1.8 seconds left to lift the Thunder to a 113-112 win here at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, forward Josh Hart delivered another shot by indicating he likely won't… OG Anunoby and Julius Randle both return this season.

“I look at it like this is the team we're going to have,” Hart said when asked if there was anything to take away from New York's performance with three starters – Anunoby (elbow) and Randle (shoulder). Mitchell Robinson (ankle) – Unavailable. “I think that's the way we have to deal with it, that these guys aren't coming back and obviously we'd be pleasantly surprised if they did.

“I'm not in those medical conversations or anything like that, so I don't know who—who—. But we have to come closer to every game and the end of this season that these guys aren't coming back, and if they do, it'll be a pleasant surprise.” “

Anunoby and Randle both initially left the lineup after the Knicks' win over the Miami Heat on Jan. 27 here in the “most famous arena in the world.” Anunoby was dealing with elbow discomfort that eventually required a procedure on his right elbow (shooting), while Randle separated his shoulder after Heat forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. took a charge against him.

Anunoby eventually returned to the lineup for three games before missing the past seven, including Sunday's loss to Oklahoma City, while Randle — who continues to work hard but has yet to progress after doing “controlled contact” drills — did not come on. . again since then.

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Before the game, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about the status of Anunoby and Randle.

First Thibodeau was asked directly if there was any concern Anunoby wouldn't be able to return this season.

“We're just dealing with reality,” Thibodeau said.

“You take it day by day. When it gets strong enough, it gets out of there.”

Then, after saying that Anunoby and Randle were in roughly the same place in their recoveries, he addressed Randle's ongoing rehab, which appears to have stabilized over the past few weeks. It's an injury that Randle didn't have surgery on and is difficult to deal with — especially for a player who plays as physical as Randle.

“Just keep doing what he's doing day in and day out,” Thibodeau said of Randle's rehabilitation. “You never know when it turns. That's basically the approach we take.

“Rehab is really your game, so put everything you've got into it. Eventually you'll get there; you can't get discouraged; just keep working at it. Other people, they've got work to do.”

On Sunday night, the Knicks came heartbreakingly close to winning a second straight game. But while Friday's loss in San Antonio was unfortunate because the Spurs found themselves at the bottom of the NBA standings, this loss was for entirely different reasons: self-inflicted wounds by New York, including five missed free throws in the closing minutes.

Three of those were by Brunson alone, who then went on to make what looked like it would be the game-winning layup with 4.1 seconds left — a play that saw Brunson, not for the first time, fall to the ground in a heap and put his hands out looking for a call. Foul.

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“Write what you see,” Thibodeau said several times in response to multiple inquiries about Brunson's final shot and whether a foul should have been called on the play.

“He said it wasn't a foul,” Brunson said later when asked what the referees said about not calling a foul there. “To make it short, that's what he said.”

The loss kept the Knicks half a game away from the Cleveland Cavaliers, occupying third place in the Eastern Conference standings, and one game behind the fourth-place Orlando Magic.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2020 with a win on Sunday, and also moved ahead of the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves to take top spot in the Western Conference standings.

“It feels good,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of the Thunder officially qualifying for the playoffs after missing the previous two games with a quad issue. “It's not really easy for me. This team has big goals and big aspirations, which is one of the things that was definitely on our list. And for us to do that, it's good. You don't do that.” I don't feel there's a need to celebrate it.

“We haven't really done anything yet. We just have to keep getting better, and see where it takes us.”

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