Knicks guard Miles McBride shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Jalen...

Knicks guard Miles McBride shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Jalen McDaniels during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 27, 2024, in Toronto. Credit: AP/Frank Gunn

SAN ANTONIO — As shot after shot cleanly fell through the net, Donte DiVincenzo began to wonder just how long his place in Knicks history was going to last.

Two nights earlier, he’d set a franchise record with 11 made three-point field goals in one game — and now, in Toronto on Wednesday night, Deuce McBride was chasing this very brief bit of history.

McBride connected on six three-point field goals in just over nine minutes to start the game. In the second quarter, he added his seventh. In the third quarter came his eighth.

With 7:53 to play, McBride hit his ninth. For most players and most teams, when the shot put the Knicks up by 34, it might have been enough to ensure that the shooter’s night was over. But coach Tom Thibodeau had played McBride 48 minutes in a game last week, so DiVincenzo wondered.

“Yeah, I actually was curious,” he said. “I thought Thibs was going to leave him in there. I actually wanted him to. But obviously, we were up big. I told him he’s going to have another chance to get it for sure.”

Thibodeau pulled McBride with 4:49 to play. He finished with a career-best nine three-pointers and matched his career best with 29 points, set nine days earlier.

With his night over after an easy 39 minutes and 35 seconds, McBride could reflect on the performance. But he seemed even less interested in breaking the record than DiVincenzo was in protecting it.

“Nah, I mean, I just wanted to win the game, honestly,” McBride said. “That’s all I was caring about.”

And you should believe him, because all McBride has done through this season is focus on the task at hand — not complaining about a limited role early in the season or about the tiring workload he has taken on lately, stepping into the starting lineup and chasing around the most dangerous perimeter threat on the opposing team for 48 minutes, or something close to it.

It’s not just him, either, as one after another backup has stepped into a lead role to help the Knicks ascend to the third seed in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining. Backups took the place of Mitchell Robinson for 50 games, and when he returned to action Wednesday — in a timely spot with Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs awaiting the Knicks on Friday night — he happily filled his role off the bench with the same spirit he has always imbued in the team.

But perhaps no one has gone from the fringes of the roster to playing his way into a postseason role like McBride, who was signed to what looks like a bargain-priced three-year, $13 million deal on the day the Knicks dealt away RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, providing him an opportunity.

Before that trade, he had appeared in only 18 of the first 31 games, averaging less than five minutes per appearance.

He still shot better than 40% from three-point range in those limited minutes, and that has continued as his chances have risen. While starting the last five games, he has averaged 44.3 minutes and 21.2 points and is shooting 48.9% from beyond the arc.

“I’m open, shoot it,” McBride said. “That’s all I’m thinking about. Guys are getting me great passes, setting me up right. So got to shoot it with confidence.”

And when he’s not open — still shoot it with confidence?

“Yeah, definitely,” he said with a smile. “Any time I put it up in the air, I think it’s going in, so give me some type of space, I’m letting it go.”

“I think it’s a good question, like where does confidence come from?” Thibodeau said. “Well, it comes from your work that you put in, it comes from your preparation. And then I think when you see the results, and we saw it in practice, the volume of shots and the accuracy of his makes in practice. And then when he came back in training camp, it was clear.

“Now that his role is expanded, he’s got a good rhythm and he can really shoot the ball. And then on top of that, his defense is top of the line. It was elite coming in, and it’s special to watch.”


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