Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti. Three plays, three blocks, eat those, Do-Mi.
“Thibs screams it all the time, ‘verticality! verticality!’, so that was going through my head, just being vertical.”
Words uttered by your man of the match, Isaiah Hartenstein. The Knicks' freshest big man helped New York (24-23) snap a four-game losing skid thanks to his defensive chops in a 105-103 victory over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers (29-20) on Tuesday at MSG.
It was not just the last-gasp block, mind you. Hartenstein (23 minutes) finished the day with four points, nine boards, four dimes, a steal, and the swats. He came off the pine in relief of a starting Jericho Sims that could only hit one bucket for two points while pulling down four rebounds in 25 minutes.
“I was just trying to help any way I can, especially with Mitch being out. Just trying to fill his role, protecting the rim,” Hartenstein said after the game.
Tuesday marked the first time since Dec. 21 for Hartenstein playing more than 20 minutes. It’s also his first game in more than a month (Dec. 16) snatching more than seven boards, and his first one with four dimes since the season opener all the way back on Oct. 19 against the Grizzlies. It was, also, Hartenstein's sixth game as a Knick getting at least one statistic of each variety (points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks) in a single game, and his first one since Nov. 20.
“I know myself. I’m not playing as good as I’m supposed to be playing. I’m kind of letting the fans down, the city down a little bit. But I’m just going to keep getting better because I know I can do it. So keep getting better and keep representing for New York,” acknowledged the reserve center.
It was another wild game in New York, the nth this season. The Knicks got to build a 13-point gap three minutes into the second quarter. They saw the scoreboard flip in favor of the Cavs right after the break. They recovered in the fourth cooking themselves an 11-point lead with less than ten minutes left on the clock... but they found themselves tied at 100 points apiece with Cleveland at the 2:29 mark.
The Knicks fended off the Cavs' comeback, though, never allowing Cleveland to retake the lead and stopping Donovan Mitchell on his tracks three times in those final 150 seconds.
After giving up 125, 139, 116, and 123 points to their prior four opponents, the Knicks limited the Cavs to just 103 points on Tuesday’s game. It’s the fewest points allowed by New York since they limited Phoenix to a measly 83-point outing on Jan. 2.
“We dropped a few (games) that we felt like we obviously should win, but for us to respond like that, obviously it’s a tough matchup with Cleveland. It was great,” Julius Randle said.
Randle led all Knickerbockers with 36 points and 13 rebounds to go with four dimes on the day. He hit eight 3-point shots matching his career-best figure.
Jalen Brunson (14), Quentin Grimes (10), RJ Barrett (16), and Obi Toppin (11) with Immanuel Quickley falling one pop short contributing nine points in 27 minutes.
”If you put a tally in the win column, you’re always thinking you’re improving,” Brunson said.
Bruson endured a rough night at MSG on the shooting front, hoisting 13 field goals but finding success on just five of those occasions. Something similar happened to Barrett, who went 5-of-12 from the floor but helped himself a bit by scoring 3-of-5 long-rangers.
“The best thing about this game, it wasn’t the cleanest, it wasn’t the smoothest, but we found a way to grind it out and get a win. It’s easy to win games when everyone’s clicking, and the ball is going in the hoop, but to win games when things aren’t going your way, this is a good stepping stone for us,” added Brunson.
Evan Fournier missed Tuesday’s matchup for personal reasons—later known to be related to his wife giving birth to their second child; congrats fam!—while the usual suspects ate their respective nutritional DNP-CDs.
We all know the Knicks have mostly operated in streaky ways this season, and with Cleveland now in the books, the next they’ll be doing is visiting Boston on Thursday before getting back (almost) home to play Brooklyn at Barclays Center come Saturday.
New York stays in the no. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 26-23 record through 49 matchups played, one game behind sixth-seed Miami (27-22) in sixth and 1.5 above mediocre-eighth Atlanta (24-24).