Starting Miles McBride pays huge dividends for Knicks, who are on cusp of Eastern Conference Finals

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The minutes police, as Tom Thibodeau calls them, were out in full force over the past few days. After the Knicks’ Game 4 loss in Indiana, the public debate around the Knicks centered on Thibodeau and the way he allots minutes among his players.

Charles Barkley shared his thoughts. So did Kendrick Perkins. And many others. Maybe you agree with Barkley. Maybe you see it the way Perkins does.

Even Thibodeau’s biggest detractors had to give him credit on Tuesday night.

The coach’s decision to start Miles McBride in the biggest game of this Knicks season paid huge dividends.

The Knicks outscored Indiana by 26 points when McBride was on the floor in Game 5.

Single-game plus-minus can be misleading at times, but not in this instance. The stat accurately measures McBride’s impact in Game 5.

“Huge,” Donte DiVincenzo said late Tuesday when he was asked about McBride. “Offensively, spacing the floor, being aggressive. And defensively making it hell full court, denying it. Being able to be in help and get back. He was special tonight.”

Starting McBride and bringing Precious Achiuwa off the bench gave the Knicks better spacing on offense. With Achuiwa on the floor in Game 4, the Pacers could afford to put an extra defender in or near the paint, clogging up driving lanes and taking away offensive rebounding opportunities.

But Indiana had to pay attention to McBride on the perimeter. So his presence created some more space in Game 5; it wasn’t a coincidence that the Knicks outscored Indiana, 62-36, in the paint.

That space also helped the Knicks on the offensive glass. They had 20 offensive rebounds on the night. Indiana finished with just five.

McBride’s screening for Jalen Brunson was effective. So was his defense on Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton had a quiet night (13 points on nine shots).

McBride was everywhere for the Knicks in his 40 minutes. Without his play – and without Thibodeau’s adjustment – New York might be facing elimination on Friday night in Indianapolis. Instead, they have a chance to close out the Pacers in Game 6.

Even the minutes police have to be happy about that.