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COA News 2024

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Knicks’ Robinson energetic in helping Knicks defense in Game 1

While attention rightly focused on Joel Embiid’s fitness and conditioning as he worked his way back from surgery on his left knee, Mitchell Robinson was also trying to find his form. And when it mattered most, he was at his best.

Robinson played ten games throughout the season after sitting out 50 games following surgery to repair a broken left ankle. But on this night, Robinson had 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and provided a burst of energy off the bench. He did as good as anyone could in limiting Joel Embiid, the reigning NBA MVP. And he even got an ovation from the crowd when he made a pair of free throws with 37.5 seconds left, pushing the Knicks’ lead to seven.

“I felt more energetic,” said Robinson, who played 30 minutes for the first time since Dec. 1. “The public has helped enormously. Home court, their energy helped us a lot, so we just went out there and played hard.

Some of that might work its way through the end-of-season games, some of it from the practice week the Knicks had, and maybe some of it just because it’s the playoffs. Robinson excelled in the postseason against Cleveland last year.

“I mean, it’s a dogfight,” he said. “You’ve got to go out there and play hard. You should. Like, who wants to go home?”

“So the whole month of April we were looking at, OK, he’s got to work his way back,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Obviously when you’re gone, just as long as he’s been and he’s done a great job of working hard at it. In every game you can see his timing changes. He hit those two big free throws late. But he’s also able to fight and be physical, move his feet and just anchor the defense. The blocked shots (and) the offensive rebounds are huge.”

While Robinson has worked his way into shape, he has struggled to find his timing. But he had one play in the fourth quarter Saturday in which he blocked a Tyrese Maxey drive, stood on his toes on the baseline, caught the loose ball and bounced it off Maxey to give the Knicks possession.

“It’s all instinct,” Jalen Brunson said. “And when you see things like that and do things like that, that’s confidence. It’s instinct. It’s just staying in the moment. Obviously there are very few, very rare times such a game happens. He saw it and took advantage of it and it is a credit to his IQ.”