COA News 2024


Mitchell Robinson does the job against Sixers Joel Embiid


NEW YORK – It’s been nearly six years since Mitchell Robinson sat in front of a crowd of reporters in the Knicks’ practice facility as the team’s new second-round pick.

Robinson was a relative unknown from Louisiana who looked timid in those early days, a six-foot-tall, skinny center with no college basketball experience, but the Knicks front office at the time believed he could develop into a weapon who oozed potential with unbridled athleticism.

Fast forward to Saturday night at a raucous Madison Square Garden.

Robinson, who has grown significantly since that day in June 2018, had to come off the bench and limit Philadelphia 76ers star center Joel Embiid, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player.

Embiid had had a torrid start. The Knicks needed Robinson to help slow him down if they wanted to have any chance at a win.

Robinson responded in a big way.

“I mean, it was just one of those things,” Robinson said. “You go out there and play hard and just go for it.”

Robinson played hard as soon as he stepped on the court and ultimately helped the Knicks earn a 111-104 win over the Sixers in Game 1 of their first-round series.

He finished with eight points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.

Robinson’s most important work came against Embiid, who had 29 points and eight rebounds.

But after Embiid scored the Sixers’ first nine points, he still performed relatively quietly.

Embiid missed the final minutes of the second half after returning to the locker room after suffering an injury when he bounced the ball off the backboard, hit the ball and then landed awkwardly.

Embiid returned for the second half as Sixers fans breathed a sigh of relief.

But Robinson, who missed more than three months after ankle surgery, kept Embiid from catching fire again.

He stayed ahead of Embiid, making it difficult for him to get to the basket. At one point, he forced Embiid into a double dribble near the three-point line.

“Obviously he’s coming back from injury so I think it’s been tough for him,” said Miles McBride, who had 21 points behind the bench in a great performance, “but I think he just wanted to take it a step further and wanted to take on the challenge.”

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Robinson played 30 minutes, the most he has played since December 1, days before suffering the injury that sidelined him for much of the season.

Even Robinson was surprised he played that much on Saturday night.

“Really?,” Robinson said when told he had played 30 minutes. “Yes, this whole week, that’s what we were preparing for. That was evident tonight.”

The Knicks are going to need more of this.

The Sixers can only go as far as Embiid can take them. And this has also been a difficult season for Embiid, after he missed two months due to a knee injury. He’s still not 100 percent.

But even a sub-100 percent Embiid is a threat. If he continues, things will be much more difficult for the Knicks.

It’s up to Knicks starting center Isaiah Hartenstein and Robinson to prevent that.

Robinson did his part in Game 1.

He has come a long way since that June day six years ago.