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Knicks' Tom Thibodeau, Pacers' Rick Carlisle add another Game 7 to their long résumés

Fiifi Frimpong, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

NEW YORK — Game 7.

Head coaches Tom Thibodeau and Rick Carlisle aren’t foreign to this do-or-die environment. And both coaches had their backs against the wall once again at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

“Game 7s. They’re special,” Thibodeau said before tip-0ff Sunday. “So just go out there and give it everything you have.”

For Thibodeau, Sunday’s elimination game was the second of his 12-year coaching career. The first came in 2013 as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Thibodeau led the Bulls into a Game 7 of the first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center in 2013.

This time around, Thibodeau led his team in front of a raucous home crowd that serves as one of the best home-court advantages in sports.

Just like this campaign, Thibodeau was without key rotation players in the 2013 elimination. The Knicks got to this point dealing with injury reports as long as a CVS receipt: Julius Randle (shoulder), Mitchell Robinson (ankle) and Bojan Bogdanovic (ankle) were ruled out for the season at various points while Jalen Brunson (foot) OG Anunoby (hamstring) and Josh Hart (abdominal) dealt with their own ailments.

The 2013 Bulls defeated the Nets in that Game 7 without starting superstar guard Derrick Rose, who was still recovering from an ACL injury the season before.

 

Starters Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf) were also out while the team leaned on Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli, who contributed 24 points apiece in the Game 7 win. They won with the same mentality the injury-riddled Knicks live by now: next man up.

“Well, it was our reality,” Thibodeau said Sunday when asked if that do-or-die win birthed his mentality to overcome huge obstacles. “We had to figure out a way. And we did it [for] a long time there.

For Carlisle, Sunday’s Game 7 was the fourth in his long 22-year career as a head coach. As head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, he defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the first-round series in 2021 in. His Dallas team was eliminated by the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the first-round series of the 2014 postseason. And in 2003 as head coach of the Pistons, he defeated the Orlando Magic in seven games. That Pistons team eventually got swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by the New Jersey Nets.

“They’re special,” Carlisle said. “It’s an honor to be involved in a Game 7. There’s special aspects of it. Going back to my playing days, I’ve been in quite a few of them.”

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