Knicks, Near Full Strength, Hitting Stride to Close Out Season

by Tate Hutchinson

Despite plenty of injury woes and changes to the roster, the 2023-24 New York Knicks keep rolling, having clinched a postseason spot with twelve games left to play. The Knicks’ depth players have shined, even with three starters still on the injury report. The squad looks to host a first-round series at Madison Square Garden by finishing as a top-four seed in a tight Eastern conference race. The Knicks have a record of 42-28, putting them in the fourth seed, half a game separated from both the third-seeded Cavaliers and fifth-seeded Magic.

After Mitchell Robinson’s December ankle injury, backup big man Isaiah Hartenstein stepped into and broke out in an expanded role. This season, he has averaged 7.3 pts and 8.5 rebounds per game in 25 minutes of play, shooting a stellar 63.7% from the floor. Even though his injury was originally expected to be season-ending, Robinson is ramping up in practice with the team. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Mitch hopes to return and come off the bench for Hartenstein in the coming weeks.

Starting forwards Julius Randle and OG Anunoby also suffered shoulder and elbow injuries, respectively, in mid-March. These two significant blows to the team in the same week have forced many complementary Knicks pieces into increased roles. Donte DiVincenzo has continued his stellar play since the new year, with averages of 18 pts, 4 rebs and 3.4 asts per game with excellent shooting off the catch. He is quickly approaching the Knicks’ season record for threes, now only 19 away from Evan Fournier in 2021-22.

DiVincenzo’s college teammate, Josh Hart, has put up some exceptional performances as of late, with all five of his career triple-doubles coming since the new year. Third-year guard Miles McBride has similarly dazzled, averaging nearly 13 PPG in March. In the past week, Deuce has put up two gutsy performances of 6+ threes in the past week while playing nearly every second of each game. And his backcourt partner, Jalen Brunson, continues to put up an All-NBA caliber season with an incredible 27.4 PPG while dishing 6.5 assists per contest.

Leon Rose’s roster upgrades since the Anunoby acquisition filled the holes the team desperately needed in the wake of these injuries. In a transaction with the Detroit Pistons at the trade deadline, the Knicks acquired PF Bojan Bogdanovic and SG Alec Burks in exchange for Evan Fournier, Quentin Grimes, Ryan Arcidiacono, Malachi Flynn, and two second-rounders. Although these veterans have struggled in their transition to a talented Knicks team so far, especially filling in for New York’s injured stars, they will be key role players down the stretch.

New York’s medical staff has done an excellent job with their stars’ rehabilitation. Anunoby’s return appears to be imminent, and Randle is expected to return around the beginning of the postseason. With an upcoming schedule including five straight games against losing teams, the Knicks will hope to bridge the gap and maintain a strong standing before the starting reinforcements return from injury. Every upcoming game will be crucial for the depleted Knicks to rise to the occasion with home-court and playoff positioning on the line.

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