Another center wearing orange-and-blue has gone down.
Fill-in starter Isaiah Hartenstein sustained an ankle injury in the third quarter of the Knicks’ 126-100 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau called it a sprained ankle, but the Knicks clarified shortly after his press conference and said it was a sore ankle.
The injury occurred in the third quarter, but Thibodeau said he didn’t see what happened on the play.
The severity of Hartenstein’s injury is uncertain.
“I haven’t talked to medical yet,” Thibodeau said after the game. “So we’ll see where it is tomorrow.”
Hartenstein’s injury is a blow to a Knicks team already short its starting center.
Mitchell Robinson suffered what was feared to be a season-ending ankle injury that required surgery in a Dec. 8 loss to the Boston Celtics. The Knicks were denied a disabled player exception after his surgery and are optimistic he will be able to return before the playoffs, but Hartenstein — who emerged as a starting caliber center in Robinson’s absence — held down the fort on the glass and protecting the rim.
Without him, the Knicks are down to Precious Achiuwa and Jericho Sims.
Achiuwa, who was acquired as part of the OG Anunoby trade with the Raptors, finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds off the bench against his former team.
“Just playing the game, you know what I mean? I didn’t do anything different,” he said. “I approach the game the same way every day, play the same way. The same intensity. Today just happened to be a day where things went my way.”
Sims only logged three minutes in garbage time, but Thibodeau initially started Sims over Hartenstein when Robinson went down. Sims suffered an ankle injury and missed time while Hartenstein thrived in the starting role.
“I feel really good about our center position because Jericho is — he’s ready,” Thibodeau said. “So when his opportunity comes, I know he’ll do well. He’s active, a great rebounder. He brings a lot to our team as well.”
Hartenstein also got into early foul trouble and finished with just four rebounds and one point. Without his usual paint presence, the Knicks still out-rebounded the Raptors, 61-31.
“That was one of the things: We knew that they would play small so we thought we have a big advantage rebounding wise,” said Thibodeau. “So lets really try to emphasize that and take advantage of it.”
Julius Randle knew a triple-double was loading in the first quarter.
Not because he had five assists in the opening period against the Raptors, but because of how Toronto was guarding him on Saturday night.
“Every time I got it, they were bringing two. That was kinda my mindset coming in: be aggressive, but just kinda read and take what the defense was giving me,” Randle said postgame. “And that’s kinda how I’ve been seeing it the past few games. I’ve been able to score the ball at a high clip, but if they double team me, I gotta be able to make the right plays.”
Randle logged his 14th career triple double with 18 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Knicks turned the ball over 21 times, with Randle responsible for seven giveaways.
“Just turning the ball over too much. Me, seven is way too much,” he said. “But we just have to get our turnovers down. Evvel we executed in the second half, slowed down and just made sound decisions, we were fine.”
One word to describe Immanuel Quickley and R.J. Barrett’s return to Madison Square Garden?
Getting traded from the only team you’ve ever known will do that — and seeing someone you’ve been with in the trenches suddenly line up as an opponent has a similar effect.
Quickley’s trip started long before he stepped foot onto The Garden floors for the first time as an opponent since the trade that sent both him and Barrett to the Toronto Raptors.
“I’ve been tripped the whole day — since the scouting report, since I’ve seen Knicks I’m like, ‘wait,’” he said after his Raptors took a blowout loss in New York on Saturday. “Just like the whole day was a little different for me. But good to see my friends. Obviously wanted a win but good luck to all of them.”
Randle had a moment, too: The moment it all became real — when the ball went into the air and Quickley wore Raptors red-and-white, not Knicks orange-and-blue.
“It was trippy, man. As I saw Quick at tipoff, whatever it was, as he was bringing the ball up, it just threw me off a little bit, so it was kinda trippy in the beginning. But afterwards, I was able to get a rhythm and adjust to it.
The Knicks have outscored opponents by 190 points in the minutes Anunoby has played since his trade to New York. It’s the highest plus-minus in the NBA and is on pace to set an NBA record.
“Yeah, I’m impressed. I always want to impact winning,” Anunoby said after the victory over his former team. “So I want to keep having a good plus-minus.”
Anunoby said he can feel a game turn on a play he makes, even if he doesn’t score, get a rebound, log an assist, steal or block.
“Even plays that don’t go on the stat sheet. Steals and stuff. A block. Or a contest. A closeout that forces a bad shot,” he said. “Little stuff that doesn’t get noticed. I try to do all those little things.”