Mitchell Robinson of the Knicks goes to the hoop for a basket...

Mitchell Robinson of the Knicks goes to the hoop for a basket in the first half against the Mavericks at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 12. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Mitchell Robinson was in his fourth season, his 198th NBA game, when he received a sideline inbounds pass on Monday.

He’d done this many times before. The move for Robinson is to swing it to the next player or hand it off, setting a pick.

This time, Robinson took one dribble toward the middle. Mason Plumlee, defending him outside the arc, did what every scouting report would tell him — move to cut off the next pass or handoff. But Robinson then used a crossover dribble to get past Plumlee and headed for the hoop, beating help defender Cody Martin with a Eurostep and slamming in a dunk.

For anyone else, it might go unnoticed, and maybe it did a little bit that day because the Knicks had few highlights in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets. But it still was unusual to see Robinson make the sort of move he has always promised to perform.

"Yeah, he’s growing," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I think he’s become very effective with dribble-handoffs and that sort of thing. So I love the way he’s finishing. And then putting the pressure on the rim, that’s always been a gift. And you throw it near the rim, he’s got great hands. He’s going to get it and finish. That’s really — you just continue to grow. I think he’s got a lot more comfortable with the ball."

It’s something that Robinson has always done in pregame workouts and in practice, along with attempting three-point field goals. But in the games, he has stuck to what he’s successful at — attempting a shot only when he is within dunking distance of the rim.

Robinson had 17 points and 15 rebounds in the Knicks' 102-91 loss to the Pelicans on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. He shot 6-for-7 from the field, making him 82-for-98 (83.7%) in the last 17 games. Overall this season, he is 149-for-189 (78.8%). He doesn’t have the number of field goals to qualify for league leadership, but that number would easily outpace the current leader, Rudy Gobert (71.3%).

Robinson set an all-time record in his second season when he connected on 74.2% of his shots, beating the mark set by Wilt Chamberlain (72.7% in 1972-73).

He doesn’t shoot much — not enough to qualify yet. But Thibodeau pointed out that he still is valuable on the offensive end.

"It goes hand in hand," he said. "So the ballhandler or the guy receiving the screen has got to set his man up. And I think as you gain more experience, he understands that. And then to get out of the screens fast to put pressure on the rim forces the defense to collapse, so that’s important as well. And then to do it over and over, you might be involved in two or three of those in the same possession, and there’s no stat for that. But it’s an important part of winning."

For Robinson, the goal still is to continue to contribute with his strengths. Finishing at the rim is one, but his main value remains on the other end. His blocked shots have dropped from a franchise-record 2.4 per game as a rookie to 1.5 per game last season and the same number this season, but he has become a more effective defender, serving as a deterrent without fouling out.

When he fouled out Tuesday against Minnesota, it was only the third time this season he has done so. Contrast that with his first season, when he fouled out eight times in 66 games.

With Nerlens Noel limited by injury, the Knicks have needed Robinson, Taj Gibson and even rookie Jericho Sims.

"Well, that’s the value of Taj and Jericho," Thibodeau said. "Jericho’s given us good minutes as well. And so, I think defensively, when you look at the markers — points allowed, points in the paint, transition points, field-goal percentage — [those numbers are] in the top five. So I’d say it’s been pretty good. Now Nerlens brings you to a different level. But the fact that Taj can give you a lot and Jericho can give you a lot is helpful."