Knicks center Mitchell Robinson looks on against the Orlando Magic...

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson looks on against the Orlando Magic in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

SALT LAKE CITY — The Knicks placed a number on how they value Mitchell Robinson in the offseason when they signed him to a four-year, $60 million contract to return to the team. And maybe that value is even more evident by the Knicks struggles defensively since he was sidelined with a sprained right knee.

Robinson has missed the last five games entering this road trip and after the Knicks surrendered 113.8 points per game over the first eight games the number has jumped to 121.8 over these five.

“It’s part of it,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Quentin [Grimes] being out. Look, you have to give OKC credit. They went into Milwaukee and put up 130-something, then went to Toronto 130-something, and they were in a back to back in Boston and put up a lot of points there, too. It’s sort of the nature of our league right now. The scoring’s way up. Everyone’s pushing pace. There’s more possessions in a game. Everyone’s trying to score in the first eight seconds. So those are all things that factor into it. OKC is playing really well right now.”

Still, the Knicks rank 25th in points per game allowed — 10.7 points per game more than the league-best Phoenix Suns who have given up 106.1. Two seasons ago the Knicks allowed just 104.7 points per game.

Robinson remains sidelined and doesn’t sound close to returning — still not doing any contact work in practice.

“I think with Mitch being out that changes the defense a lot as well because he’s just, what is he, top five in blocks every year?” RJ Barrett said. “That changes it but when one man is down we’ve got to figure it out.”

Going deep

Jazz coach Will Hardy has regularly utilized a 10-man rotation this season — something many coaches are hesitant to do.

“It’s dictated by your depth,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got a good problem to have. He’s got quality players on the bench and usually that’s what dictates it. Most teams pare down to nine and eight now. But if you have the quality depth like they have — [Collin] Sexton has been a starter, [Malik] Beasley has started games in this league. That’s a big plus for them.”

Knicks won't face MVP Jokic Wednesday

Reigning back-to-back NBA MVP Nikola Jokic has entered the league’s health and safety protocols and has been ruled out of Denver’s game against New York on Wednesday. The Nuggets made the announcement Tuesday night on their league-mandated injury report. Jokic becomes the 10th player to enter the protocols this season. Players are not required to undergo regular testing this season, but there are certain situations where they must be checked for COVID-19. — AP

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