Tom Thibodeau’s old tricks might have saved the Knicks’ season in Game 5

When you coach for long enough, you usually develop an easily identifiable tendency that you end up being known for. Gregg Popovich is known for taking timeouts extremely early in a quarter. Quin Synder is known for looking like a mad scientist on the sidelines. Steve Nash is known for this freaky/funny meme.

For New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, his calling card is his inclination toward playing his key contributors a ton of minutes. And on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the second round series between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, the minute man struck again, having Jalen Brunson and Quentin Grimes start the game … and quite literally never come out.

The Knicks beat the Heat, 112-103, in part because Brunson and Grimes each played the full 48 minutes.

Now, to be fair, the Knicks’ season was hanging in the balance down 3-1 to the Heat, and like Brunson so eloquently stated in that clip above, you’ve got to do whatever it takes.

There is an admirable quality to the faith that Thibodeau consistently displays in his top-end rotation players. But still, one can’t help but chuckle at this latest edition of Thibodeau’s greatest hits catalog.

Arguably the best part of all of this is it came against Jimmy Butler – the player Thibodeau famously rode the coattails of for 60 minutes in a regular season game.

That 60-minute game came the season Butler played every minute of three straight games during the 2013 Playoffs – playing two 48-minute games against the Brooklyn Nets and one against the Heat. That means that, even if they go all 48 next in Game 6, Brunson and Grimes still won’t hold the record for most consecutive games a player(s) has played all 48 minutes under Thibodeau’s guidance (the NBA should really start handing out a trophy for things like that).

Butler wasn’t the only player Thibodeau played obsessively. In his three full seasons with Thibodeau as his coach in Chicago, Luol Deng led the league in minutes twice and never averaged less than 38.7 minutes per game.

During his first year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns all averaged 37 or more minutes per game (the former two even played in all 82 games that season). This season, the Knicks had three players finish in the top 40 in the league in minutes played per game: Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle.

Maybe Thibodeau just forgets to take players out sometimes? Who knows. One thing is for certain, though, you can question his methods, but this time, you can’t question his results.