Knicks guard Miles McBride dunks over Trail Blazers forward Trendon...

Knicks guard Miles McBride dunks over Trail Blazers forward Trendon Watford during the second half of an NBA game in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Craig Mitchelldyer

PORTLAND, Ore. — In his brief time in New York, Cam Reddish was a polarizing figure — almost representing a barometer of how the team was performing and how the fan base would cheer or deride the direction of the franchise. And it was much the same Tuesday night, except that he was doing it in a Portland Trail Blazers uniform.

The Knicks had been fighting their way back into the game all night long and were clinging to a two-point lead late in the third quarter when Reddish lined up a corner three-pointer. 

He just didn’t line it up well.

The ball caromed off the side of the backboard, triggering a fast break that Josh Hart finished on the other end, igniting a rally that had the Knicks, down by 16 earlier, opening up a double-digit lead and coasting to a 123-107 win over the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.

On a night when Jalen Brunson was sitting again with a sore left foot and Julius Randle and RJ Barrett spent much of the game searching for their shot, Hart provided a spark first and then Deuce McBride provided just about everything else. The little-used third-string point guard has emerged again in Brunson’s absence and while playing well throughout the trip, this time it wasn’t just 94-feet of hustle defense. 

McBride scored a career-high 18 points, shooting 6-for-8, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. Picking up a pair of wins after three straight losses without Brunson gave the Knicks a chance to allow him to heal while keeping their playoff push moving forward.

"I thought we got off to a sluggish start and then I thought our bench came in and gave us a huge lift," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "And I think a lot of that could be attributed to Josh. I love, I mean, you look at the boxscore, and it's very telling .... Josh, nearly a triple double, but Quick [Emmanuel Quickley, 26 points] had some big shots and Deuce, you can't say enough about what he did. That's probably his best game as a pro … I was very pleased overall with our defense, our rebounding was very good, and in the second half we took care of the ball."

Hart said: "That’s what you’re supposed to do when you come off the bench. You don’t want to go in and just maintain energy, and you definitely don’t want to go in and have the energy drop. Your role when you come in off the bench is to come in and bring energy and elevate the game. I think we’ve been doing that the last two or three weeks, and tonight was another example of that." 

The win salvaged a 2-2 mark on the four-game West Coast trip and pushed the Knicks back into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Knicks fell behind by as many as 15 in the first quarter, missing their first seven shots, along with a pair of turnovers, and they didn’t score until Barrett connected from three 4:12 into the game. The Blazers had 12 fast-break points in the first quarter — but the Knicks, finally making shots and also waking up defensively, shut them down completely on the break with Portland not getting a single fast-break point in the second quarter. After Portland stretched the lead to 16 in the opening minute of the second quarter, the Knicks closed the gap by halftime to 55-49.

Hart finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and Reddish shot 1-for-6 for two points.

Reddish was called “the most athletic player on the team” by a front-office member and he occasionally would flash the potential he has carried since high school — a silky-smooth slash to the rim or a defensive stop with his length and speed that made you wonder why this didn’t happen more often. And when the team was in need, fans pleaded, “Free Cam!”

When the Knicks dealt Reddish for Hart, the season turned. The Knicks won the first nine games that Hart played with them — and numbers aside, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t quickly become one of the Knicks' most important players.

“You see the impact that he’s had,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It was immediate and it’s all the intangibles that he brings to the game. When you look at net rating, you look at the record since he’s been here, we’re 10-3. The team just functions well when he’s on the floor. You look at his playmaking ability — whatever you need. You need a big shot, need a big defensive stop, need a big rebound, he makes the play. And he makes everyone around him a lot better. So he’s been terrific for us.”

"I knew it would be a good fit style-wise,” Hart said. “It kind of exceeded my expectations, especially as quickly as it did. System, coaching staff, team, it fit perfectly.” 

The Knicks were 10-13 when they moved Reddish to the end of the bench after a loss on Dec. 3. They went 20-13 with Reddish buried before the trade and are now 31-17 since that Dec. 3 loss, 11-3 with Hart in the lineup.

While Reddish has started 11 of his 14 games in Portland, Hart has not started a game with the Knicks, averaging 29.7 minutes, 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds since the trade. Although he started all 51 of his games with the Blazers this season, his per 36-minute scoring is up since the trade — and his three-point shooting has been off the charts (58.6%).

While Hart is counting wins — already the Knicks' 40 exceeds the total of any team he’s been on and is hoping to get to the playoffs for the first time in his career — Reddish is happy to have an opportunity after sitting for 33 straight games. He came to the Knicks after asking out of Atlanta for a better chance and is getting it in Portland.

“I hadn’t played for so long, like it’s still not all the way there,” Reddish said. “I’m just happy to be playing and blessed to be playing. It definitely was hard. But I had some great people around me, my uncle, my girl, and I had my dogs, too. So they keep me positive. 

“But I just kind of treated it like an offseason. I was working out every single day, trying to be ready for this moment, Obviously, nothing’s like a game. But it was hard, more mentally than anything. So I’m still kind of crawling my way out of it a little, I don’t want to say a hole, but I’m still getting back to my usual self.”

He would not go into where it went wrong in New York, but smiled and said: “Y’all right here are in the locker room more than me. So y’all know what I’m talking about. Go ask them what I’m talking about.”

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