“We’ll take it.”
That was Josh Hart summing up the Knicks’ road trip to reporters Tuesday night, right after they dispatched the Blazers with a dominating fourth quarter.
After four games on the West Coast without Jalen Brunson (who technically played half in Sacramento), the Knicks (41-31) finished 2-2 and reclaimed fifth place in the East from the plucky Nets.
“When you don’t have one of your best players, some teams just fall apart,” Hart said. “They are on a losing streak. So to finish the .500 road trip, we’ll take it.”
With a rare three days off before the next game, the hope is that Brunson’s sore foot feels good enough to play in Saturday’s matinee at Madison Square Garden against the Nuggets.
( Felton Spencer, former Knicks center, dies at 55 )
So how did the Knicks, who have tied their most wins in a season since 2013, keep the ship afloat without the Eastern Conference Player of the Month? It was a collaborative effort, but the main theme was picking up the pace and scoring in transition. During the four-game trip, the Knicks averaged a league-high 20.3 points on breakaways, breaking their season average of 12.1 points per game.
Miles McBride was a surprising catalyst for two wins over the Lakers and Blazers, cashing in his first extended opportunity in over a month. McBride’s 18 points in Portland represented a career-high while he was serving as a reserve point guard. Struggling with his outside shooting early in the season, the sophomore buried 6 of his 9 3-pointers in the two wins.
“I knew my work was going to be shown. I’m going to keep doing that,” McBride said in his post-game on-court interview with the MSG Network. “At some point they are going to start to fall.”
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Hart was also part of a bench team that pulverized Portland, especially in the fourth quarter. He filled the stat sheet in 37 minutes with 16 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
In some ways, the performance was vindication for the Knicks and their trade deadline deal. Hart severely outplayed Portland’s Cam Reddish, who scored just two points on 1-for-6 shooting in 19 minutes.
Reddish and Hart were traded last month and were thriving individually before the matchup. Reddish, who had been stationed on Tom Thibodeau’s bench while he was with the Knicks, told the Daily News that his DNP in New York were the result of “favouritism” and “politics.”
But he didn’t get revenge Tuesday, instead absorbing a loss that included the Blazers being outscored by 27 points with Reddish on the floor.
Meanwhile, the Knicks outscored the Blazers by 26 points when Hart played. Hart, 28, a 2017 draftee, is preparing for the first playoff series of his career.
“I’m in a new position here where I’m sitting here and we’re really playing for something,” Hart said. “I haven’t really been in that position in my career. I think that’s making me and the rest of the guys in the locker room hungrier.”
He will take it.