Precious Achiuwa

Knicks Notes: McBride, Hartenstein, DiVincenzo, Anunoby, Burks

After losing back-to-back games in Indiana, the Knicks made a lineup change ahead of Game 5, inserting Miles McBride into Precious Achiuwa‘s spot in the starting five. As Ian Begley of SNY.tv writes, the move paid major dividends.

The Knicks outscored the Pacers by 26 points during McBride’s 40 minutes on the court, and the extra spacing afforded by his presence gave Jalen Brunson more room to operate — the Knicks star took advantage by scoring a series-high 44 points in the blowout victory. McBride was also one of the primary defenders on Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, who contributed just 13 points and five assists on the night.

“Huge,” Donte DiVincenzo said of McBride’s impact, per Begley. “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.”

Despite using a smaller lineup, with the 6’2″ McBride replacing the 6’8″ Achiuwa, the Knicks dominated the game inside. They outscored Indiana by a 62-36 margin in the paint and grabbed 53 rebounds (20 offensive) compared to just 29 (five offensive) for the Pacers. Seventeen of those rebounds, including 12 offensive boards, went to Isaiah Hartenstein, who said playing “physical” basketball was a priority for him heading into Tuesday’s game.

“I feel like the games in Indiana, I wasn’t playing like myself, wasn’t physical,” Hartenstein said, according to Peter Botte of The New York Post. “I was letting them kind of play how I play, so just coming in, that was the biggest thing I wanted to do.”

Here’s more on the Knicks as they prepare to head back to Indianapolis with a 3-2 series lead:

  • DiVincenzo and Myles Turner got into a brief altercation in the third quarter of Tuesday’s game and had to be separated (Twitter video link). After DiVincenzo threw down a big dunk, he came back up the court and attempted to fight through a Turner screen, but got called for a foul. According to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, Turner seemed to take exception with an elbow to the gut from the Knicks wing on the play. “They were trying to be tough guys. And that’s not their identity, and there’s nothing more to that,” DiVincenzo told reporters after the game. “I don’t agree with trying to walk up on somebody. … Nobody is going to fight in the NBA. So take the foul, keep it moving. You’re not a tough guy. Just keep it moving.”
  • Head coach Tom Thibodeau said on Tuesday that injured forward OG Anunoby (hamstring strain) was doing some “light work” on the court, as Begley tweets. However, in a pregame TNT segment, sideline reporter Chris Haynes (Twitter video link) suggested that Anunoby is probably a long shot to play again in this series, stating that a potential return for the Eastern Conference Finals is more likely.
  • After not playing in any of the Knicks’ first seven games of the playoffs, Alec Burks has emerged as a reliable rotation piece since Anunoby went down, scoring 14, 20, and 18 points in his past three games. “He’s been giving us huge minutes this series,” Josh Hart said (story via Botte). “He’s a true professional, someone who’s staying ready. You see him every day working hard, getting his shots up. That’s what pros do. When they’re not in the rotation they continue to get better, continue to stay ready. When his number was called he came out and provided for us when we desperately needed it. He’s a true pro, someone who we’re going to continue to rely on for those minutes.”

Knicks Notes: Anunoby, Brunson, Hartenstein, Hart, DiVincenzo, Adjustments

OG Anunoby won’t play in Game 5 of the Knicks’ series against the Pacers on Tuesday due to a strained left hamstring, but the injury report isn’t all bad news, Steve Popper of Newsday tweets. Jalen Brunson, who is battling a right foot injury, and Isaiah Hartenstein, who banged his left shoulder in Game 4, are not on it. Anunoby hasn’t played since Game 2.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • They were embarrassed by their performance in Game 4, when they lost by 32 points. Ironman Josh Hart took his share of the blame, Stefan Bondy of the New York Post writes. “It’s the playoffs. You gotta find it. That’s something that we didn’t do (Sunday),” Hart said. “I put that on my shoulders, someone who brings energy, brings hustle, the kinda things I didn’t do (Sunday).  It’s time to get better. It’s rest and recovery. But mentally, we gotta make sure we’re prepared to do everything we need to do to get a win on Tuesday.”
  • The Knicks return home for Game 5 and Donte DiVincenzo is confident the Game 4 stinker won’t carry over, according to Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post. “We’ll be fine,” he said. “We’re not worried about it. I know this group and Tuesday is a different game. It has nothing to do with (Sunday). It’s always good to go home. It’s also better to go home after a loss like this where mentally everybody is locked in and ready for the next game and then we will have that energy from the Garden to feed off as well. It’s super big for us. Like I said, this group is going to respond.”
  • What kind of adjustments can the Knicks make? Fred Katz of The Athletic speculates they might use Brunson more off the ball, running him around screens and having Hart or DiVincenzo initiate the offense. They could also tweak the starting lineup, going with Miles McBride in place of Precious Achiuwa to create better spacing on offense.

Knicks Notes: Brunson, Anunoby, Achiuwa, McBride

Jalen Brunson‘s streak of four consecutive 40-point games came to an end on Wednesday, but it was another incredible performance for the Knicks guard, who scored a team-high 29 points and returned to the game to lead New York to a double-digit comeback after exiting in the first half due to a right foot injury. No Knick had a better plus/minus in Game 2 than Brunson’s +26 mark, and his teammates suggested it was no coincidence that his return spurred their comeback.

“When he’s out there, there’s a level of calmness,” Donte DiVincenzo said, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. “We’ll get the right shot every single time. There’s a level of confidence from everybody that we have him on the court with us. Everybody can settle down and play their own game.”

Brunson set a new Knicks single-game playoff record by scoring 47 points in Game 4 of the Philadelphia series and is currently averaging 35.6 PPG in this postseason, which would also be a franchise record. The Knicks’ previous single-game playoff record belonged to Bernard King (46 points), who also holds the club record for points per game in a postseason (34.8). King said he has no problem with Brunson taking his place in the record books.

“Records are made to be broken,” King said during an appearance on ESPN’s NBA Today, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. “But to have somebody like Brunson break those type of records and providing the leadership that he provides, and understanding the game and looking at how much he loves the game. And the crowd responds to him, it’s just wonderful. I love watching him play. So I’m delighted that he’s the one that actually broke those records.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Already ruled out for Game 3 on Friday due to his left hamstring strain, Knicks forward OG Anunoby is also unlikely to be available for Game 4 on Sunday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said during an appearance on NBA Countdown on Thursday (Twitter video link).
  • With Anunoby joining Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Mitchell Robinson on the injured list, the Knicks’ “next man up” mentality will be put to the ultimate test as they attempt to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, writes Steve Popper of Newsday (subscription required). “There’s a lot of guys on this team that can start with other guys in this league, so when we say (next man up), it’s not cliche,” forward Josh Hart said. “It’s not just we’re saying it just because it sounds good. We’re actually saying it because we believe it. I’ve got faith in every one of our guys.”
  • Peter Botte of The New York Post looks at some of the Knicks’ lineup options with Anunoby out, suggesting that Precious Achiuwa could enter the starting lineup, with Miles McBride earning more minutes. Alec Burks and Jericho Sims will be candidates for rotation roles, though Botte suggests it’s not entirely out of the question that head coach Tom Thibodeau tries a six-man rotation.
  • This Knicks season is starting to feel like a fever dream, according to Howard Beck of The Ringer, who argues that it’s getting harder and harder not to fall in love with this year’s team.

Injuries Piling Up For Knicks As OG Anunoby Leaves Game With Sore Hamstring

The Knicks grabbed a 2-0 lead in their second-round series with Indiana, but manpower is becoming a concern as they get closer to the Eastern Conference finals.

OG Anunoby left Wednesday’s game in the second half due to a sore left hamstring, the team announced (via Twitter). Speaking to reporters immediately following the contest, coach Tom Thibodeau said he hadn’t talked with the medical staff and couldn’t provide any details on the severity of the injury, tweets Ian Begley of SNY.

Before departing, Anunoby scored 28 points in 28 minutes, partly because Jalen Brunson was unavailable for the end of the second quarter due to soreness in his right foot. Brunson tested the foot at halftime and wound up playing the entire second half.

“A lot of toughness,” Thibodeau said, per Steve Popper of Newsday. “That’s the makeup — we know that’s his makeup — but also the makeup of the team. He went in back, they worked on him, he warmed up and we didn’t know if he was going to go or not. Jalen never asks out of a game, so we knew it was something.”

New York trailed by 10 points at halftime, but Brunson’s return swung the momentum. The Knicks tied the game in a little over four minutes and took control with a 21-6 run.

Brunson told reporters he’s “all good” with the injury and he didn’t have any medical imaging done on his foot while he was in the locker room, Begley adds (Twitter link).

Josh Hart played the entire 48 minutes for the second straight game, posting a near triple-double with 19 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. Donte DiVincenzo logged nearly 44 minutes as Thibodeau leaned on a seven-man rotation.

“He’s a great leader,” Thibodeau said of Hart. “Players all have respect for that, when a guy is willing to give whatever he has. Look at what Josh has given us, you have great respect for that, says a lot. To me, the actions speak a lot more than the words.”

The Knicks were already short-handed entering the game after losing starting center Mitchell Robinson with a stress injury in his left ankle that will sideline him for the rest of the playoffs. That’s in addition to missing All-Star power forward Julius Randle, who hasn’t played since late January due to a separated shoulder, and Bojan Bogdanovic, who is out for the season due to foot and wrist injuries. Isaiah Hartenstein was on the court for 39 minutes tonight, while Precious Achiuwa saw 28 minutes off the bench.

Teammates are disappointed for Robinson, who battled his way from left ankle surgery in December so he could be available for the postseason, Popper adds in a separate story.

“It’s sad, especially from like a personal standpoint,” Hartenstein said. “We’re close. Knowing what he had to go through to get back, even when he was playing, he was giving us everything he had. I think without him, we wouldn’t have won the Philly series. It’s sad, but at this point, we’ve gotta be there to support him. Basketball wise, really it’s just next man up. We’ve gone through this all year. I think that’s something that gives us confidence. We’ve gone through this a million times. So it’s sad but I think it helps us now when we have something like this happen.”

Knicks Notes: Hart, Rotation, Hartenstein, Brunson, DiVincenzo

Back in November, Josh Hart griped a little about what he felt was a reduced role in the Knicks‘ offense and expressed a desire to play more. As Fred Katz of The Athletic writes, Hart has no complaints about how much he’s playing in the postseason (46.6 minutes per game), joking earlier this week that the only activity that tires him out isn’t basketball-related.

“My wife arguing with me,” he said. “That makes me extremely tired.”

Still, Stefan Bondy of The New York Post (subscription required) wonders how sustainable it is to have Hart and the Knicks’ other starters playing such heavy minutes as their season continues well into the spring. With Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Mitchell Robinson now out for the playoffs, Precious Achiuwa will likely enter New York’s rotation as its seventh man, but head coach Tom Thibodeau hasn’t shown much trust in anyone further down the depth chart.

The Pacers, living up to their name, played at the fastest pace this season of any playoff team, and there will be fewer days off between games in the second round than there were in the first, Bondy notes. According to guard Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana is hoping to take advantage of its depth and wear down New York over the course of the second-round series.

“We’re a pretty deep team. Probably the deepest in the league,” Haliburton said. “So we’re trying to use that to our advantage by getting up and pressuring and trying to wear on these guys as much as we can for a seven-game series.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Robinson’s latest injury underscores how important it is for the Knicks to re-sign Isaiah Hartenstein when he reaches unrestricted free agency this summer, Bondy writes in another New York Post story. Holding Hartenstein’s Early Bird rights, the Knicks will be able to offer him a starting salary worth up to approximately $16MM. While the expectation is that it won’t take more than that to retain Hartenstein, his value could continue to rise if he enjoys a strong playoff run without Robinson available to share the workload in the middle.
  • With his Game 1 performance vs. Indiana, Jalen Brunson became just one of four players in NBA history to score 40 or more points in four consecutive playoff games, joining Jerry West, Michael Jordan, and former Knicks star Bernard King. As Katz details for The Athletic, Brunson’s teammates and head coach appreciate the fact that – as great as he’s playing – he wants to keep getting better. “The thing that’s impressive, it’s always within the context of winning and his teammates and that’s always the most important thing to him,” Thibodeau said. “And I love his mentality because his mentality is that he’s not satisfied.”
  • While Donte DiVincenzo obviously hasn’t replaced Randle as the Knicks’ power forward in recent months, DiVincenzo’s ability to defend perimeter players, serve as a legitimate No. 2 scoring option, and step up in clutch moments has helped the team make up for the loss of its star forward, argues Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post.

Mitchell Robinson Out For Remainder Of Postseason

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has sustained a stress injury to his left ankle and will miss the remainder of the postseason, according to the team’s PR department (Twitter link).

Robinson won’t even be reevaluated for six-to-eight weeks, thus his injury-marred season is over. The big man underwent testing late this afternoon, which determined the extent of the injury, according to Ian Begley of SNY TV (Twitter link). He won’t require surgery, Begley adds.

Earlier in the evening, the team ruled him out for Wednesday’s Game 2 against the Pacers due to left ankle injury management. It’s now apparent the injury is much more serious.

Robinson played just 12 minutes in New York’s Game 1 victory, contributing two points, two rebounds and an assist. He also missed one game during the first-round series against Philadelphia after spraining the same ankle.

Robinson underwent left ankle surgery in December. He didn’t return until March 27.

Overall, Robinson only appeared in 31 regular season games. He has two years remaining on his four-year, front-loaded $60MM contract.

With Robinson out, Precious Achiuwa‘s role figures to expand dramatically. He played just four minutes off the bench as the team’s eighth man on Monday.

Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson Won’t Play On Wednesday

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson won’t play in Game 2 against the Pacers on Wednesday. The team has already ruled him out due to left ankle injury management, Steve Popper of Newsday tweets.

Robinson played just 12 minutes in New York’s Game 1 victory, contributing two points, two rebounds and an assist. He also missed one game during the first-round series against Philadelphia.

New York’s starters are already playing heavy minutes, with starting center Isaiah Hartenstein logging 38 minutes in Game 1. Forward Precious Achiuwa, who played just four minutes off the bench as the team’s eighth man on Monday, will likely see more action with Robinson unavailable.

Robinson underwent left ankle surgery in December and sprained his ankle during Game 3 against the Sixers.

Knicks Notes: Rotation, Hart, Thibodeau, DiVincenzo

The Knicks “could” expand their rotation beyond seven players when they face Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals, according to Tom Thibodeau, but New York’s head coach isn’t making any promises either way, as Peter Botte of The New York Post details.

Nine players saw action for the Knicks in the first round, but Bojan Bogdanovic suffered a foot injury during the series that ended his season and Precious Achiuwa – a DNP-CD in four of six games vs. Philadelphia – only played when Mitchell Robinson was unavailable. In addition to his starters, Thibodeau essentially only used Robinson and Miles McBride off the bench, Botte writes.

If the Knicks do roll with an eight-man rotation in round two, Achiuwa is the most likely candidate to see regular playing time, says Botte. An undersized center, Achiuwa may match up better against a Pacers front line led by Myles Turner, who spends more time on the perimeter and isn’t as imposing in the paint as Joel Embiid.

Alec Burks is another candidate to see some action off the bench, but he played poorly down the stretch after being acquired from Detroit, shooting just 30.7% from the floor in 23 regular season appearances as a Knick.

Here’s more out of New York:

  • Josh Hart has been a perfect fit for the Knicks as a player on the court and for New York City as a personality off the court, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. Current TNT analyst Stan Van Gundy, who coached Hart in New Orleans earlier in his career, tells Bondy that he viewed Hart as a player who “lived for” the biggest games and the biggest moments. “Josh was always great when you played the best teams, when he got the matchup with the best players,” Van Gundy said. “You never had to worry about him.”
  • After a clip from a February podcast in which he referred to Indiana as “bottom of the barrel” resurfaced ahead of the Knicks’ second-round series, Hart is prepared to hear boos from the Pacers faithful in Indianapolis. According to Botte, Hart sheepishly tried to walk back his comments by calling Indianapolis a “great city” and insisting he loves Indiana. “Do I think I’ll probably get booed? Probably,” Hart said. “It’s funny. But for me it’s always like, I don’t mind it. That’s their job. Their job is to boo, to get loud, cheer for their team. So, like I said, as long as I can get some Long’s Bakery donuts, I’ll be solid.”
  • Jason Kidd is the latest NBA head coach to sign a contract extension, having completed a new deal with the Mavericks earlier today. Could Thibodeau be next? As Van Gundy tells Bondy, the Knicks’ coach, whose current contract expires in 2025, looks like an obvious candidate for an extension. “I think it would be a real mistake on (the Knicks’) part not to lock him up for a lot of years,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think it’s something Tom has to worry about. He certainly wants to be there. Any organization that it’s in a win-now mode would want him, so he’s going to have a job. … But I think he’d rather be there and they should want to lock him up for as long as they possibly can.”
  • Donte DiVincenzo will get the assignment as the primary defender on Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton to open the second-round series. Brian Lewis of The New York Post takes a look at how DiVincenzo is approaching that challenge.

Atlantic Notes: Anunoby, Achiuwa, Knicks, Lowry, Robinson, Whitehead

Former Raptors teammates OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa were instrumental in the Knicks’ defensive effort during their Game 4 win over the Sixers on Sunday. They guarded Joel Embiid a majority of the time with Isaiah Hartenstein in foul trouble and Mitchell Robinson sidelined by an ankle injury.

The Knicks’ frontcourt duo also made the right reads in rotations and pick-and-rolls, SNY TV’s Ian Begley notes. “I don’t know how to (explain it),” Achiuwa said. “It’s a feel thing between me and OG. When we’re involved in a defensive action, I understand what he wants to do, we read off each other and play off each other that way. … That’s kind of what played into it.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • While Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson was setting a franchise record for playoff points in a single game, Sixers counterpart Kyle Lowry only made one field goal in Game 4, Peter Botte of the New York Post notes. Lowry, an unrestricted free agent after the season, is averaging 10.5 points and 4.0 assists per game in the series.
  • Offensive rebounding was a key to the Knicks’ victory on Sunday. They grabbed 15 for the game, including seven in the fourth quarter. They outscored the Sixers 21-6 on second-chance opportunities. “That’s what they do,” 76ers forward Kelly Oubre told Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “Like I said, Jalen (Brunson) is putting up all the shots, but at the end of the day, like that’s what he’s supposed to do. And then everybody else is supposed to crash the glass like mad men.”
  • Robinson is listed as questionable to play in Game 5, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. Bojan Bogdanovic (foot contusion) has already been ruled out.
  • Dariq Whitehead‘s rookie season with the Nets was a washout, as he underwent season-ending surgery on Jan. 29 to repair a stress reaction in his left shin. The No. 22 pick in last year’s draft, who appeared in just two NBA games, will hit the reset button with a new head coach, Jordi Fernandez, and a busy offseason. “Dariq should play in summer league, should be available in summer league. Whether or not he plays the entire summer league or not, that’ll be TBD,” GM Sean Marks said, per NetsDaily.com. “But the plan right now is he’s in the gym every day.”

Knicks Notes: Officiating, Robinson, Anunoby, DiVincenzo, Hart

After the Sixers ripped the officiating following their Game 2 loss, it was the Knicks who had grievances to express during their post-game media session following Game 3. As Peter Botte of The New York Post writes, head coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t happy with the fact that Joel Embiid went to the line 21 times while his team as a whole was awarded just 19 free throw attempts.

“I’ll look at it again, and I’ll send my clips in like I do every game and they’ll say, ‘marginal contact,’ and then we’ll have marginal contact on Embiid and he’ll be at the line 21 times,” Thibodeau said after Thursday’s loss. “So that’s the way it works.”

While some Knicks players suggested they’d expected the officiating in Game 3 to favor the Sixers after how Game 2 ended, they took exception to an Embiid foul on Mitchell Robinson in the first quarter. After Embiid fell to the floor on defense, he grabbed Robinson’s legs as the Knicks center attempted to rise up for a layup attempt (video link). Donte DiVincenzo called it a “dirty” play, while Josh Hart said Robinson was fortunate to avoid a significant injury.

“I’m all for tough fouls, tough playoff fouls, but that’s something that can put a guy out for a significant amount of time,” Hart said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “So we’re lucky he didn’t get seriously hurt during that time.”

Embiid – who was called for a flagrant 1 foul on the play, rather than flagrant 2 that would have ended his night – explained to reporters after the game that he had “flashbacks” to a play earlier this year when Jonathan Kuminga fell on his knee. He said he wanted to avoid a repeat of that incident.

“I didn’t mean to hurt anybody,” Embiid said. “I just … in those situations I gotta protect myself, because I’ve been in way too many situations where I’m always the recipient of the bad end of it.”

Here’s more on the Knicks as they prepare for Sunday’s Game 4:

  • Robinson’s status for Game 4 remains up in the air, but he didn’t practice on Saturday, according to Thibodeau (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic). If Robinson is unable to play, the pressure will be on Isaiah Hartenstein and Precious Achiuwa to respond to and match Embiid’s physicality on Sunday, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Post.
  • OG Anunoby and DiVincenzo were two of the Knicks’ most reliable role players during the regular season, but they’ve been up and down so far in the playoffs, according to Botte, who says New York needs more consistency out of the two wings going forward. The Knicks outscored opponents with Anunoby on the floor in every single one of his 23 regular season games with the team, but have a negative net rating during his minutes in two of three postseason contests.
  • The fact that so many key Knicks contributors played their college ball at Villanova has been a fun subplot of the first-round series between New York and Philadelphia. As Bondy details for The New York Post, both Hart and DiVincenzo spoke this week about how they hoped to be drafted by the Sixers when they came into the NBA. “Yeah, I wanted to go (to Philadelphia),” said Hart, who was the No. 30 pick in the 2017 draft. “They were at 25 and did a draft-and-stash, some European guy that I can’t pronounce the name.” The 76ers used that pick on Anzejs Pasecniks, who spent the next two seasons overseas, then had his rights renounced by Philadelphia in 2019.