Knicks Playoff Notes: Mitchell Robinson comes up big on boards, at free-throw line

May 10, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) box out for a rebound during game five of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden.
May 10, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) box out for a rebound during game five of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

To Mitchell Robinson, games are won based on shots missed rather than shots made.

“What this game comes down to is the rebounding,” Robinson said late Wednesday. “Whoever wins the rebounding match, nine out of 10 that’s who wins the game.”

The Knicks used this formula for success throughout the regular season. They were at the top of the league -- or near the top -- in offensive rebound efficiency and total rebounds.

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The trend largely continued against Cleveland. They dominated the Cavs on the boards over the five-game series.

But it’s been a bit different against Miami.

The Heat have held their own on the glass, which is one of the reasons they’re up 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Friday.

But the Knicks seem to be trending in the right direction on the glass. After getting crushed by Miami in Game 4, New York re-grouped in Game 5. The Knicks had an edge in offensive rebounds and total rebounds in their win on Wednesday night. One factor here was the Heat taking 17 more shots than the Knicks. But give New York credit for keeping Miami in check on the offensive glass.


The Heat dominated the Knicks on the boards in the fourth quarter of Game 4, pulling down seven offensive rebounds in the decisive quarter.

So what did the Knicks do differently in Game 5?

“The details,” Isaiah Hartenstein said. “There’s a mixture between wanting it and then also doing it consistently. In Miami, we boxed out a couple of times, but it wasn’t consistent…That’s not gonna work. I think [Wednesday in Game 5] we had a consistent effort from all five, and that’s how you win games.”

That script has worked often for the Knicks this season. If they have success on the boards in Game 6, they’ll give themselves a chance to win the game.



Julius Randle entered Game 5 shooting 37.5 percent from the floor and 23 percent from beyond the arc. Early in Game 5, it looked like his shooting struggles would continue. He started out missing six of seven shots after getting poked in the eye shortly after tip-off.

“I couldn’t really see anything [in the first quarter],” Randle said afterward. “But seeing the guys go out and compete the way they did energized me. [I] started to feel a little bit better after that. Just happy we can get a win.”

Randle hit his next six shots -- including three three-pointers -- to help lift New York to a Game 5 win. He got to the free-throw line (6-for-10) and facilitated well. The box score shows him with five assists, but on several possessions he made the pass to set up the pass that led to a quality shot for his teammate.


“I liked the way he attacked the basket,” Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought he had really good balance tonight, made good reads.”

Randle’s turnaround helped the Knicks win for the first time this postseason when trailing after the first quarter. They had been 0-3 in that scenario prior to Game 5. Miami was 5-0 in playoff games they led after the first quarter before its Game 5 loss.

Earlier Wednesday, Randle was named third-team All NBA. It’s his second All-NBA selection in the past three seasons.

“Obviously, it’s a great honor. Those things don’t happen without the group of guys that we have,” Randle said. “I’ve said it all year; it takes the belief of the front office, our coaching staff, and most of all my teammates. They trust me to go out there and compete every night and play at a high level. I just thank God. It’s a huge honor.”



Quentin Grimes had, arguably, the most important play in Game 5. With under two minutes to play and the Heat down, 107-101, Grimes matched up against Jimmy Butler. He banged knees with Bam Adebayo as Adebayo set a screen for Butler. Grimes went down and was out of the play momentarily, but he got back up after a few seconds and hobbled back to Butler. He stopped a Butler drive with a steal, poking the ball away and recovering it.

He was in so much pain at the time that he didn’t try to dribble up court. He just got the ball to a teammate. It was a crucial defensive play against a Heat team that was trying to make a late comeback.

“It’s the playoffs. You got to do whatever you can to win,” Grimes said afterward. “It’s what you live for, it’s what you watch as a kid. So I knew I was hurt a little bit but it’s not going to stop me from doing whatever I can to get a stop or disrupt the play. Luckily, I came up with a steal so I just had to fight through it and do whatever I can to help the team get a win.”


Grimes played 48 minutes on Wednesday night. He was in significant discomfort late in the fourth quarter but walked around after the game without a limp. He said during his press conference – and after it – that he fully expected to play Game 6. And he expected to be able to play big minutes again for the Knicks.

Jalen Brunson, who also played 48 minutes in Game 5, will be happy to see Grimes on the floor Friday night.

“The things he brings to the game, a lot of it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet,” Brunson said Wednesday night. “… He’s willing to do whatever it takes. When you have a guy like that on the court, you’re ready to do whatever for him out there.”


The Heat fouled Robinson intentionally to try to chip away at the Knick lead late in Game 5. But Robinson made sure the strategy didn’t work.


He hit 3-of-4 free throws starting at the 5:17 mark of the fourth quarter to help the Knicks maintain their lead. The Garden crowd erupted after every make.

Robinson, a career 53 percent free-throw shooter, also went 1-of-2 from the line late in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks maintain a lead.

Afterward, the Knick big man thanked the fans for their support.

“It felt great in that moment for them to believe in me,” Robinson said. “Knocking them down for the team and stuff like that, it’s amazing.”