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Why is Rick Carlisle Calling The Knicks "Navy Seals?"

Seems Like Acupuncture Could Be The Key To New York's Success

Rivalry Breeds Respect

Throughout the 1990s, one of the most prominent and historic rivalries in the NBA was the Indiana Pacers versus the New York Knicks. Historic matchups involving Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, and Larry Johnson defined the NBA and showed intense and pure hatred between the two teams. Over time, the rivalry has died off, with a small rehashing in the 2014 playoffs, where the Pacers came out on top en route to a conference finals appearance; the two did not meet in the playoffs primarily due to New York's struggles to play winning basketball. But this rivalry has now been reborn.

Twenty-five years after what seemed like the final chapter of the Knicks and Pacers rivalry, the two franchises meet both looking to advance to the conference finals. The semi-final series has been electric, streaky, and most importantly chippy. The series has gone back and forth while being incredibly physical and controversial.

Following their games one and two losses, Indiana filed 78 complaints with the NBA over foul calls they either believed not to be fouls against the Pacers or missed calls that would have benefitted Indiana if they had been called. This also included Rick Carlisle, Indiana's head coach, being ejected from game two after receiving two technical fouls for screaming at the referees over missed calls. This anger and hatred makes what Carlisle said even more surprising.

What Was Said?

During Tuesday night's game five between New York and Indiana, Stan Van Gundy mentioned that he had spoken to Rick Carlisle before the game and that the Indiana coach referred to the Knicks as "Navy Seals." While this was before game five, which saw five technical fouls get called between the two teams, Carlisle had not been very positive about the Knicks leading up to the critical matchup. When speaking to the media, it had been mainly about what the Pacers needed to do better or ripping the referees for botched calls that affected the game.

Why Was It Said?

That made what Carlisle said all that more surprising initially, as you don't expect the opposing head coach to compliment you in such a way during the series; it makes sense. The Knicks and Pacers have been battling in this series. While the Pacers run a deep rotation often involving more than nine players in a given game, the Knicks have been decimated by injury throughout the regular and postseason. Including All-Star Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Bojan Bogdanovic, and now OG Anunoby who has had to miss the last few games with a hamstring injury, the Knicks were running a tight rotation of really only seven guys, which included Alec Burks who hadn't played more than a minute total this postseason before game four.

This has forced Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Isaiah Hartenstein, and especially Josh Hart to play nearly if not the entire game. Now granted, Tom Thibodeau runs a tight ship and usually has played his starters for more than 35 minutes a game, but not typically in the playoffs. The playoffs are much more physical and violent, as we have seen in the Indiana and Philadelphia series. The added physical exertion takes a toll on the body at the exact moment when players are fighting for the only thing they want: an NBA championship. This extra energy and physicality typically takes a harsh toll on teams, but for whatever reason, it doesn't seem to be affecting the Knicks. The Knicks guys who play upwards of 40 minutes every game look good as new for the next game, and there are two critical reasons.

How Do The Knicks Play So Much?

For one, they play for Tom Thibodeau. The head coach had a reputation for playing his starters long minutes before he ever came to New York. With his early teams in Chicago, we saw players like Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah consistently play more than 35 minutes a game, even if it wasn't necessarily needed. Chicago saw great success, made the playoffs consistently, and always posed a threat to teams like the Heat and Celtics, who typically ran the Eastern Conference. Thibodeau was praised for this style, up until it led to injuries. Most infamously, Derrick Rose tore his ACL and never returned to MVP form after winning the award. This vigorous play style also caused Luol Deng to have to deal with injuries consistently, and you have to wonder whether or not it is why the Knicks have been so injury-riddled this year.

As previously mentioned, the Knicks are missing three likely starters and a crucial bench piece for Game Six, and likely only one will return if the Knicks advance. While the injuries are somewhat of a concern, the minutes are needed in the playoffs. Down the stretch, you need your best players on the court to win games. Thibodeau knows this, and that's why he has been preparing his men all season long. Those 38-minute games in a more leisurely setting help prepare you for the physical 45 minutes you see in the playoffs. The results are undeniable, as the Knicks are 5-1 when trailing at halftime this postseason, consistently being able to outscore and outrun their opponents in the second half down the stretch.

The other potential reason why the Knicks are so well-conditioned might be acupuncture. If you've watched any of the Knicks games this postseason, you have likely seen Donte DiVincenzo with big red circles on his back. These circles look bad, almost like an injury, but are the complete opposite. They are left by suction cups that players use during acupuncture that help control blood flow and help the player recover. While we've primarily seen them on Divincenzo, this recovery method is likely utilized by most players and is a significant reason why the Knicks have recovered so well after playing so many minutes.

Long Minutes Is The Thibodeau Way

Thibodeau plays his men a lot, but luckily, he has found a team in New York that wants to play a lot. The core three guys played together at Villanova before the NBA, so they know how each other thinks and works. Insert Thibodeau, and you have a team dynamic that is dedicated to playing as much as needed to get the win. They are so dedicated that they try experimental and new recovery methods like acupuncture to help their players recover quicker and more effectively. Rick Carlisle called the Knicks "Navy Seals" because of their intense motor and seemingly endless energy supply. But it may not be their endurance, but their smarts to ensure their body is well healed and kept up to shape.


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