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Knicks 109, Wizards 91: “At least that isn’t his shooting hand”

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But yeah. This sucks.

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Mitchell Robinson had 10 points and 14 rebounds. That they came in just the first half isn’t the story. That they stayed at 10 and 14 is. On a night the Knicks thoroughly dominated the Washington Wizards 109-91, Robinson’s fractured right hand is the big story.

Entering the night, four of the five Knicks starters — Robinson, Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Elfrid Payton — have started every game. Contrast that stability with Washington’s starting five featuring Garrison Mathews in place of the league’s leading scorer, Bradley Beal. But it was Mitch who would play the game’s hero and its tragic figure, with a performance that thrilled with what it was and chilled thinking it could be gone for a while.

Over the game’s first few minutes, the Wizards kept inexplicably finding each other completely unguarded right underneath the basket for dunks. The Knicks realized that’s no way to go through life and put a stop to it, paving the way for an 11-0 run that put them in front to stay. Do you like dunks? There were a lot of dunks and near-dunks.

Call Mitch 34+35 ‘cuz he was pure ecstasy on both ends. Flip the 35 to 53 and the numbers still spit truth: of New York’s 53 first-half points, 34 came in the paint. Robinson hit his season’s averages for points and rebounds in the first quarter. Could the Wizards fight back without Beal, their best player? Put it this way: the best Russell Westbrook looked all night was this.

Also, more dunks.

The Knicks led 43-34, palindrome’s delight. Derrick Rose found Randle to push it to 11. The Wizards were making more 3s, but not in a bad way. The Knicks weren’t taking 3s ‘cuz they didn’t have to. They absolutely dominated Washington in the paint on both ends. Mitch finished the first-half with a double-double and Randle had 10 rebounds. Kenny Albert said that’s the first time since such stats were tracked over 25 years that the Knicks ever had two players with double-digit rebounds in a first half and there’s just no way that’s true. Enes Kanter, Tyson Chandler, David Lee, Zach Randolph, Charles Oakley, Patrick Ewing — this team’s had too many prolific members of the boards to think it never happened before.

Halftime broke and so did breaking news of the bad break: no Mitch the rest of the night. On this night at least, Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson were up to the task. Not pissing away the lead is a different task than building one, but they were tasked with the former and they delivered.

A Noel rejection of Robin Lopez (OAKAAKUYOAK) led to this Randle and-one, part of a 15-0 run that turned the game into a laugher.

The Knicks turned up the defense and the Wizards had no answers. New York kept forcing turnovers, seemingly without pause, at least until the news darkened: Mitch fractured his right hand and will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Best believe Tom Thibodeau is wondering if a big man reunion is in order.

This win pushed the Knicks to 12-15. Last year they didn’t win their 12th until they’d lost 32. How long till their next dozen Ws? Depends how long Mitch is out. The Knicks most significant change from last year to this is their defense, and Robinson playing nearly 30 minutes a game is as big a reason for that as anything. Bet your bottom dollar Mitch’s next three agents are salivating over how much his presence will be missed.

Notes:

  • 24 and 18 for Randle on like 57/67/85 splits.
  • 14, 3, 6 assists and 4 steals in just 20 minutes for Rose. 16 for Quickley. They may be a thing together.
  • The Knicks entered the game just 2-14 in their last 16 meetings with the Wizards. Speaking of 2-14, that’s Washington’s record when Westbrook plays. They’re 4-3 without him.
  • Maybe this happened after the injury — in the second Mitch missed a free throw. I mean really missed. The ball didn’t touch the rim. Not, like, an airball that was on-line but just short. He literally shot a line drive that hit the glass to the right of the rim.
  • Last year in 66 games, Knick opponents scored fewer than 90 points four times. Tonight was almost the fifth time in 27 games this year.
  • Noel struggled to deal with the big, burly Lopez. Tomorrow he has to deal with DeMarcus Cousins. Fingers crossed.
  • Kevin Knox saw his first action in two weeks. 14 Knicks played in this one. Someone check Thib’s vital signs.
  • If Payton had Rajon Rondo-sized hands, how much of a better player would he be? His touch from five feet and in is so off. I wonder if he had bigger hands if he’d be more accurate in close. I wonder what he’d think of such a Payton.
  • Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Walt Clyde Frazier got to see his beloved Ish Smith play. “One of my favorite players,” Clyde said. “If he could shoot, he would be an All-Star.” Find yourself someone who loves you the way Clyde loves Ish.
  • Like Mitch, Ish never returned after halftime, reportedly having suffered a sore quad.
  • Clyde laughed recalling the story from his playing days of games against the Baltimore Bullets and young kids offering to carry his bags into the old Baltimore Civic Center, dropping them off and taunting him with “Pearl’s gonna get 50 on you!”
  • After a nifty Lopez spin in the post, Frazier gave an etymology lesson on the term “pivot” for centers originating due to similar moves by primordial bigs. Professor of History Clyde is one of my favorite Clydes.
  • On consecutive Washington possessions, Mathews hit a 3 and Kenny Albert, broadcasting from a Manhattan studio rather than Capital One Arena, credited it to Davis Bertans. If Marv did that he’d be trending on Twitter.

Quoth at large, referencing Robinson’s injury: “At least that isn’t [Mitch’s] shooting hand.” Always look on the bright side of life. No Beal tonight. No Victor Oladipo tomorrow when the Knicks host Houston. Take those little pinpoints of light when and where you can. It could get dark around here soon. For a while.