GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Lost among the game-ending drama in the Knicks' 103-102 loss to the Charlotte Hornets Saturday night was a remarkable sequence midway through the fourth quarter that says everything about the kind of player Mitchell Robinson is becoming.
Robinson, who missed time earlier this season with a sprained right ankle, fell to the floor after stepping on Nicolas Batum’s foot while playing defense. The Knicks got the ball back and headed down to the other end of the court. When no one called a timeout, Robinson picked himself up and started hobbling almost like a zombie after his teammates.
“I’m limping down the court,” he recalled after practice Sunday. “Nobody called timeout. So I did what I needed to do, set the pick-and-roll.”
And then Robinson, injured ankle and all, threw down a dunk over Malik Monk for an 88-80 lead.
The Knicks held Robinson out of practice Sunday as a precaution, though both he and Knicks coach David Fizdale said he is probable to play Monday when the Knicks host Cleveland. That is good news because the second-year player has been giving the Knicks a much-needed shot of energy off the bench in his two games back since missing three games with a concussion.
Robinson followed a 16-point game in the Knicks' win over the Mavericks on Thursday with his first double-double of the season against Charlotte. The 21-year-old center paired 17 points with 12 rebounds in almost 27 minutes of play.
“He’s our one guy that can play way above the rim at both ends of the floor,” Fizdale said. “His speed and ability to change direction really helps us defensively.”
Robinson started six of seven games before suffering the concussion but has come off the bench for the last two in relief of Taj Gibson. Fizdale said he plans to continue to bring Robinson off the bench.
“Right now that’s working for us. Taj gets us off to really stable starts and keeps Mitchell from the potential of getting into foul trouble,” he said. “ . . . Either one of them could end up finishing.”
Robinson said that coming off the bench is fine with him. “It’s worked out so far," he said.
Robinson wasn’t the only player to have a big game for the Knicks despite the loss to Charlotte. Rookie RJ Barrett led the team with 22 points and had some big buckets down the stretch. Frank Ntilikina had six assists and set the tone with hard-nosed defense, although he couldn’t stop Devonte’ Graham’s game-winning three-pointer.
Fizdale said there were a lot of good things to take away from the game as the team prepares to host Cleveland, a team that beat them by 21 points a week ago.
“A lot of positives came from that," Fizdale said. "Two best games we played back to back. The kid [Graham] hit a bomb on us.”