Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson appears ready to make playoff impact despite ankle sprain

New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) takes rebound away from San Antonio Spurs forward Victor Wembanyama (1) during the first half at Frost Bank Center
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell Robinson sprained his ankle in his second game back for the New York Knicks on Friday, but that didn’t hinder him from looking like the dominant presence he was earlier in the season. Robinson had 12 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass, in the Knicks’ 130-126 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. His work on the glass was reminiscent of his status as the league’s best second-chance creator before going down with an ankle injury on Dec. 8.

Admittedly, he was partly responsible for Spurs center Victor Wembanyama going off for a career-high 40 points on the affair, but all things considered, the 25-year-old big man’s output looked as if he did not miss 50 straight games. The Knicks will need strong interior play if they want to compete for a championship in a top-heavy Eastern Conference.

How the Knicks fared without Mitchell Robinson in the lineup

New York has gone 4-7 against the other five best teams in the East’s standings, be it the Boston Celtics (No. 1, 0-1), Milwaukee Bucks (No. 2, 1-1), Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 3, 1-0), Orlando Magic (No. 5, 1-3) and Indiana Pacers (No. 6, 1-2).

While they’ve out-rebounded their opponents by a five-rebound margin in Robinson’s absence, they’ve allowed teams to block 0.6 more shots in that span. When up against potential playoff competition, their win-loss record proves their need for Robinson’s services down low.

Where will Robinson help the Knicks most in the postseason?

The fifth-year big will be instrumental in helping the Knicks stymie a Bucks interior attack featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo, who leads the league with 20.3 points in the paint per game, as well as the Miami Heat front that feasts on opportunities in close and has stars in Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler that excel in corralling rebounds on both ends and converting them into offensive opportunities.

Robinson spoke on how he felt after the game and did not express feeling any discomfort in his sprained left ankle or surgically-repaired right ankle, saying that he thought he “played a solid game,” per Stefan Bondy of the New York Post.

With nine games left in the regular season slate, Robinson can help the Knicks (44-29) eclipse the Cleveland Cavaliers (45-29) and even overtake the Milwaukee Bucks (47-27) for the No. 2 seed out East.

READ MORE: Can the Knicks finish the season as the East’s 2-seed?

In the playoffs, the former second-round pick will be huge either coming off the bench or in the starting lineup once more. His playoff track record isn’t the best telltale sign of how he’ll perform this time around, as he’s taken a major step as a contributor this year, and a step back in the health department. So long as he can generate extra opportunities for the Knicks and protect the rim at a high level, New York will have a great chance of making a deep postseason run.

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