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Knicks lose Julius Randle for remainder of season as playoffs approach

With only six games remaining in the regular season for the Knicks, the team received the devastating news on Thursday that Julius Randle will not be able to return this season as he must undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. Randle reportedly did everything he could to make a comeback this season for the playoffs. However, it became clear that his shoulder would not be able to be stabilized to a point where he could handle physical contact. The Knicks will now be without Randle for the playoffs as he embarks on surgery imminently.

Back-To-Back Playoffs Derailed By Injury For Randle

Julius Randle has had some of the toughest luck for any NBA player with the playoffs over the past two seasons. Last year, Randle battled it out through an ankle injury that severely hindered his play throughout the Cavs and Heat series. Against the Heat specifically, Randle was neutralized entirely, which ultimately spelled the demise of the Knicks' playoff hopes last year.

This season, Randle tried as hard as he could to make it back to the New York lineup for the playoffs, but it was not in the cards this year. The Knicks and Randle are better off with Randle playing this safely so last year's situation does not repeat itself. Randle will be re-evaluated in five months following the surgery and should be fully healthy by the time next season starts.

For the rest of the Knicks, the road in the playoffs became much more difficult. Although New York has mostly been able to hang on in the standings without Randle, by the time the playoffs come, missing Randle will make life incredibly tough on Jalen Brunson. The rise in intensity and attention to detail will put heavy defensive attention on Brunson in every play and require somebody to step up to fill in that second star role without Randle.

The Knicks received one good piece of news: OG Anunoby returned to the lineup Friday against the Bulls. In the Knicks' loss, Anunoby played 29 minutes and scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field. As long as no re-aggravation of his elbow occurs before the playoffs, Anunoby will be fully back in the rotation with no minutes restrictions before the season ends.

Knicks Struggling as Season Comes to a Close

Outside of the injury concerns, New York is struggling to win games with playoff seeding still up in the air. The Knicks are 1-4 in their past five games and are now sitting at the fifth seed with a 45-32 record. The Magic are now the fourth seed with a 45-32 record. However, they won the season series against New York, so they hold the tiebreaker. The Cavs sit in third at 46-31, while the Bucks are 47-30 and on a three-game losing streak. Behind New York sits the Pacers in sixth at 44-34, the Heat in seventh at 43-34, and the 76ers in eighth at 42-35.

The Knicks still have a wide array of possibilities for the playoffs, as with five games left, the two-seed is still in play, and so is the possibility of the play-in tournament. In this recent skid, the Knicks lost to the 18-win Spurs in overtime, all while Jalen Brunson scored 61 points and the 37-win Bulls. These games were difficult games to drop, as beating these two lesser teams would have New York tied with the Bucks in the standings. Instead, New York still has plenty of work to do in these last five games.

To finish the season, the Knicks will face the Bulls two more times, the Bucks, the Celtics, and the Nets. The Bucks face the biggest challenge as they are still fighting to hold on for the coveted 2-seed. Some good news for New York is that the Celtics have already clinched the overall number one seed in the league, so there is a good chance they will be resting key players by the time New York faces them.

Seeding will most likely come down to the last game of the Knicks' season, so there is still a lot of important basketball to be played in this short amount of time. Randle may not be able to return this season, but getting a healthy Anunoby back is still a huge boost for New York's hopes of making the playoffs.

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