Knicks fans were hoping for a signing Isaiah Hartenstein moment this season, and they finally got one Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the clock winding down and New York up, 105-103, the Cavaliers lead Donovan Mitchell he had the ball looking to win the game or send it into overtime. Mitchell excelled Julius Randle with six seconds left and went up for the tie.
The 24-year-old center stepped in to help the defense and jumped straight in to challenge the shot. Mitchell threw the ball up and it hit the front of the rim and the Knicks held on for the win.
“It was awesome. Monster playing from him,” coach Tom Thibodeau he said after the game. “He played a super game all around. That was huge. I thought our bench was great. The start of the fourth quarter gave us a big boost and we needed it.”
Hartenstein scored just four points, but grabbed nine rebounds and dished out four assists in 22 minutes. From Mitchell Robinson went down with an injury, the Knicks relied on Hartenstein — who usually plays the five with the second unit — and Jericho Simswho has started the last few games for New York.
While the Knicks have lost the previous four games with Robinson out, Tuesday’s win not only snapped their losing streak, but may have sparked something in Hartenstein.
“It’s something I came here for,” Hartenstein said of the final game. “I know myself. I’m not playing as well as I’m supposed to be playing. I feel like I’m letting the fans down, the city down a little bit. But I’m going to keep improving because I know I can do it. So he’s just trying to get better and represent New York”.
And what Hartenstein came in for was to bring depth to the Knicks, who have struggled to find scoring — except Immanuel Quickley — from the second unit.
Although their score was not good on Tuesday night, Obie Toppin Being the only scorer in double figures, everyone was a plus on the field, something the starters couldn’t say.
“I think what we bring is energy, I think that’s what we should bring,” Hartenstein said of the bench. “ Bring something a little different than what the first unit is, where it’s a little more iso. So I think it was a good start for us and we just have to keep building. Obi the last two games were great. So keep building together.”
If the Knicks want to weather the storm of losing their big man and stay in a playoff spot, they’ll need the bench to step up and make Hartenstein-like plays on a more consistent basis. They’ll get their chance Thursday when they travel to Boston to face the Celtics in one of their toughest tests this season.