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Knicks drop first game without Mitchell Robinson in 139-124 loss to Hawks – Boston Herald


ATLANTA — Defense without Mitchell Robinson didn’t start so well for the Knicks. In fact, it was a disaster.

With Robinson missing his first game of several to recover from a surgically-repaired thumb, Tom Thibodeau’s squad found itself taking the ball out of its own net.

Over and over again.

The Hawks feasted in the pick-and-roll and inside the paint, riding big nights from Dejounte Murray and Trae Young in a 139-124 victory Friday night. The postgame locker interviews produced a consensus that Robinson was missed.

“It’s hard to cover for so much. You kinda forget when he’s out there how much he’s covering,” Julius Randle said. “He covers a lot and obviously we would love to have him, but it’s gonna be a collective effort trying to make up for what he brings.”

“Mitch kind of cleans out everything,” added RJ Barrett.

The Knicks (25-22), who’ve lost three straight, kept it close until the fourth quarter mostly because of their hot shooting and Julius Randle (32 points overall). But then their offense predictably fell back down to earth, at least for just long enough for the Hawks (24-22) to create separation for a fourth-quarter cruise to their fifth straight victory.

How bad was the Knicks’ defense? They shot 59% and still lost by 15 points.

“You give up 139, and credit to them, they’re playing great basketball right now, but we’re not gonna be able to win a game like that,” Tom Thibodeau said. “And so, I liked our offense a lot, shoot 59% and score 124. But right from the start, there was no defensive urgency or mindset from the start of the game.”

In Robinson’s absence, Thibodeau started Jericho Sims instead of Isaiah Hartenstein “to try to keep some rhythm with the second unit.”

It was the third start of the season for Sims, a 2021 second-round pick, who has floated in and out of the rotation this season. Sims, like Robinson, is a high-flying rim protector. He actually played well in 28 minutes, especially in the third quarter. But the game was lost at the start of the fourth when Thibodeau went small with Randle and Obi Toppin in the frontcourt.

In less than two minutes of Toppin and Randle sharing the court, a single-digit deficit bulged to 15.

“We broke the lineup. And they got on a run right there,” Thibodeau said, “and then we couldn’t stop the bleeding there.”

The Hawks have flirted with disaster this season, with coach Nate McMillan rumored to be contemplating retirement midway through the season. But they also entered Friday night playing rejuvenated basketball with a fully healthy roster. Then they scored 62 points in the paint and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, moving within a ½ game of the Knicks for seventh in the Eastern Conference.

It left Thibodeau complaining about effort for a second straight game.

“I think right now, we’re slow reacting. We gotta get out of that,” the coach said. “We gotta get that fight back to us, that urgency back to us. And then you can’t wait you have to establish that right from the start of the game. So the Washington game was similar. We didn’t impose our will at all. So sometimes, people can make shots. And if they’re challenged, you live with that. We’re capable of doing a lot better than we’re doing right now.”



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