Nikola Jokic missed three of his last four shots and had a turnover in the final minutes of the Knicks’ win over the Nuggets.
His main defender? Michael Robinson.
Robinson’s fingerprints were all over the Knicks’ win over Denver on Saturday. He got seven of New York’s 15 offensive rebounds and added three assists, a steal and a block in the win.
It was the first time in Robinson’s five-year career that he beat the Nuggets at full strength.
“Jokic is a very talented player,” Robinson said. “Going out there, getting the win, it was great.”
It was also Robinson’s first game since writing a Snapchat post complaining about his role in the Knicks’ offense. Robinson followed up with an Instagram post, saying he’s been through a lot personally recently.
After Saturday’s win, Robinson said he was indeed happy with his role in New York.
“If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be playing (like) I just did. So, yeah,” the fifth-year center said.
Tom Thibodeau seemed to take Robinson’s comments about his role in stride.
“Mitch has been great all season. Anyone can have a bad day. If you’re having a bad day, bounce back, have a good day. Don’t get in the team’s way,” Thibodeau said after the Knicks’ win.
“I think he understands that. His teammates, they respect him and they appreciate him. We know all the dirty work he does for the team. It’s a big role. He has a huge role for our team. Go out and play, next game, don’t worry about what happened next game. No one is perfect.
Based on what his teammates think of him, it would be surprising if a Knick was upset by Robinson’s Snapchat post.
“We’re all brothers, so we even joked about it a bit on the plane,” Emmanuel Quickley said. “Mitch, he’s a great guy on the court. Of course, I think everyone knows that. It’s like a character. He can be funny and a bit outgoing.
“We understand who Mitch is and said to him, ‘Anytime we can help you get the ball a little bit more, we’ll try to do that. So we don’t take it too (seriously). We want everyone on the team to be happy and try to eat in addition to winning.
The Knicks have won a lot lately. There are 12 games over .500 with 10 games left. They enter next week at least 1.5 games ahead of Brooklyn for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
And they managed to win with both Jalen Brunson and Robinson for significant periods.
“Sometimes guys get injured or guys don’t play their best and it’s great to know that you’re looking to the bench and you have guys who can be starters, guys who can produce at a high. level in this league”, Josh Hart said of the depth of New York. “And it comforts you to know that it may not be my night, but it will be someone’s night.
“You have guys coming off the bench who can be starters. You obviously have the starters, who are obviously starters for a reason. And you saw the depth we have with Deuce coming in, especially that Portland game – the whole road trip, but especially that Portland game played the way he did. It’s something you want for the long haul.
“It’s something that sometimes guys deal with injuries or guys don’t play their best and it’s great to know that you’re looking to the bench and you have guys who can be starters, guys who can produce at a high level in this league. And it gives you comfort knowing that it might not be my night but it will be someone’s night.
Hartenstein in full swing
Isaiah HartensteinThe play of recent times is an example of New York’s depth. He and Hart helped the New York bench keep the game even in the fourth quarter.
Hartenstein had three rebounds and an assist in the fourth quarter. The Knicks edged Denver by one point in that streak, giving the starters a chance to close out the game.
In the seven games leading up to Saturday’s win, Hartenstein had a +85 plus/minus – a number that tells you how much of an impact he’s been impacting games lately.
“I don’t know if it’s a change as he’s dealt with everything. I think he’s a lot more comfortable,” Thibodeau said.
“When a player comes in and he’s new, he adjusts to a new system and new teammates, it takes a bit of time. One of the by-products of Mitch’s absence was giving him a chance to really get into the rhythm and he got healthy That’s a big part of that too.
Julius Randle likes what he’s seen of Hartenstein lately.
“He just does a lot of little things. Whether he scores 10 points, 15 points, he rebounds, he defends, gets his hands on plays and deflections and stuff like that. Sets screens, really good screens,” Randle said.
“He just does a lot of little things for us that help us win.”
Bring it to Hart
With Saturday’s win, the Knicks moved to 11-3 with Hart in the lineup. They have 42 wins, which is a career high for Hart.
On Saturday, Hart had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists. It was the second game he had hit those numbers off the bench for New York.
Afterward, Hart warned the Knicks would be too comfortable at this point in the season.
“It’s a win that feels good for us to play against a tough team like that, to play against the only seed, but at the end of the day we can’t be complacent. I think if we beat a team like that and get complacent, that doesn’t mean anything,” Hart said.
“So work hard, keep improving, keep learning. We’d rather learn with wins than losses. We had Minnesota on Monday. A tough Minnesota team. They’re going to get here ready to go.”