Knicks Notes: Robinson, Anunoby, Hart, McBride

The Knicks had to survive most of the season without Mitchell Robinson to anchor their defense, but he made a strong impact in Saturday’s playoff opener, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Robinson, who missed 50 games following surgery to fix a fractured left ankle, showed no signs of the injury as he grabbed 12 rebounds, blocked four shots, and made a pair of clutch free throws to help New York get by Philadelphia. He was able to play 30 minutes, the first time he has reached that total since December 1.

“I felt more energized,” Robinson said. “The crowd helped a lot. Home court, their energy helped us out a lot, so just went out there and played hard.”

Robinson had been on a minutes restriction since returning to action last month. He appeared in 10 games while working to regain his timing and conditioning and splitting time at center with Isaiah Hartenstein, who has also been playing limited minutes. Getting normal production from Robinson could be a difference maker for the Knicks as they hope to make a long playoff run.

“So the whole month of April, we looked at, OK, he’s got to work his way back,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Obviously, when you’re out as long as he’s been, he’s done a great job putting the work into it. In each game, you can see his timing is coming around. Those two big free throws he hit late. But also [he is] able to battle and be physical, move his feet and just anchor the defense. The blocked shots [and] the offensive rebounding is huge.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Sixers coach Nick Nurse knows the impact OG Anunoby can have on a game after coaching him for several years in Toronto, Popper adds in a separate story. Nurse sees many similarities between Anunoby’s role on the Knicks and what he used to do with the Raptors. “I don’t think it’s much different. He was a great defender for us,” Nurse said. “He wreaks some havoc off the ball defensively … also on the ball, he’s effective. Once he stops you, just getting it out to the next play on him, he’s effective tipping some of those things. Listen, he can do it from a lot of positions, too.”
  • With Jalen Brunson struggling through a rare off shooting night, Josh Hart and Miles McBride made sure the Knicks didn’t fall behind in the series, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. Philadelphia was able to limit Brunson to 8-of-26 from the field, but Hart contributed 22 points and 13 rebounds, including three important three-pointers late in the game. McBride had 21 points in 28 minutes as New York got a massive lift from its bench. “I knew I was going to be left open, disrespected on the three-point line, and if you base it off numbers in the regular season, I think I shot like 30 percent — so it’s a smart game plan,” Hart said. “For me, it’s just continuing to take the shot. I made my first one and missed my next four. And normally I would have just been hesitant. But I just got to continue to shoot, continue to shoot. Make them respect me.”
  • In another piece, Bondy looks at how early exits by Atlanta, Chicago and Golden State could benefit the Knicks this summer. He also identifies a few other teams that might be ready to shake up their rosters if they don’t advance in the playoffs.
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