Knicks starting to feel domino effect of critical injury absences’..

Knicks starting to feel domino effect of critical injury absences’..

In the aftermath of their first loss in nearly three weeks, the Knicks tried to both shrug it off and understand their health is an issue that can no longer be glossed over.

Three would-be starters — Julius Randle, OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson — have all missed at least four games in a row.

Quentin Grimes, another part of the top-8 in the rotation, sat the past two with a sprained knee.

The domino effect has been way more minutes for players unaccustomed to such a load, plus an extra focus from the opposition — especially the Lakers — on Jalen Brunson.

“We’re missing [Anunoby]. We’re missing his ability defensively, able to knock down shots,” Josh Hart said. “We’re missing [Randle], an All-Star for a very good reason, 25 [points] and nine [rebounds] every night. Quentin’s ability to space the floor.

“I don’t think we’re missing just one guy. We’re missing three big guys, and obviously, Mitch has been out for months. But you know, when you’re missing four key players, three of which are starters, it’s always tough.”

The good news on Anunoby and Grimes is that they’re considered “day-to-day,” according to Tom Thibodeau, although neither has spoken to the media since sustaining their respective injuries.

Grimes’ knock was obvious.

He planted his right foot while trying to guard Utah’s Collin Sexton on Tuesday and was in clear pain after his ankle turned and knee buckled.

Grimes returned in that contest but then joined the injury report with a semi-optimistic update Saturday from Thibodeau that the guard “is doing a little more.”

Anunoby is more of a mystery.

He had been wearing kinesio tape on his shooting elbow during games, but didn’t feel comfortable while warming up last week in Charlotte and became a late scratch.

He hasn’t played since because of elbow inflammation.

“When he’s healthy enough, and he feels comfortable and he can trust his body, he’ll be out there,” Thibodeau said, a standard answer from the coach that often means it’s a pain tolerance issue and up to the player.

Anunoby has never been very durable or committed to playing every game like, for instance, Julius Randle.

“It’s tough to win in the league,” Josh Hart said after the Knicks disappeared in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s defeat to the Lakers. “As you see so many times, it doesn’t matter what the other team’s record is. We try to just go out there and focus on that. You know what I mean?

“Obviously, you want to win winnable games. The thought process doesn’t change, whether it’s a team under .500, a team struggling, or a team with a five-game winning streak. Whatever it is, our thought process is always the same.”

Despite missing an injured Jalen Brunson, the Knicks (32-18) toppled a shorthanded Grizzlies squad in Memphis on Jan. 13.

After the Tuesday game, only one of the next six Knicks opponents currently have a losing record (at Houston on Feb. 12).

Julius Randle, rehabbing from a dislocated shoulder, appeared on the Knicks bench in street clothes during Saturday’s loss.

It was his first appearance at MSG since sustaining the scary injury on Jan. 27 against Miami. He will be re-evaluated in 2-to-3 weeks. The hope and belief is that Randle will avoid season-ending surgery.

Hart was encouraged that Randle used his right hand for a hand-slap, while Isaiah Hartenstein was also happy to have his teammate back at games.

“Having him around is always great,” Hartenstein said. “He’s always really supportive of us. And so just having him around was great.”

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