Miles McBride’s growth buys Knicks more time for Jalen Brunson to heal

Miles McBride, New York Knicks
Mar 14, 2023; Portland, Oregon, USA; New York Knicks guard Miles McBride (2) dunks the ball during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

In the play that encapsulated the New York Knicks‘ gritty 123-107 comeback win in Portland, second-year guard Miles McBride failed in his first attempt to disrupt a Trail Blazers’ transition play.

Jusuf Nurkic’s quick outlet pass found his intended recipient. But McBride did not give up even after initially failing to intercept the pass. As Anfernee Simons rose up for what he thought was a wide-open dunk, McBride leaped with all his might to swat away what could have been an easy two points for the Trail Blazers.

It sent a clear message that the Knicks wouldn’t fold up even in dire circumstances — last game on a grueling road trip still without their best player and staring at an early 16-point deficit.

“Honestly, I knew I needed to step up,” McBride said. “End of a road trip, I felt like we came out flat, and I just wanted to be a spark, give energy and do what I can.”

Stepped up big-time he did over the last two games that got the Knicks back on track after a three-game tailspin.

McBride had a career-high 18 points against the Trail Blazers after a solid 8-point, 3-steal game in their 112-108 win against the Los Angeles Lakers two nights earlier. He’s hit 6 of 9 from downtown in that 2-game span as McBride’s confidence is at an all-time high.

His offense has finally caught up with his defense which has been his calling card ever since the Knicks drafted him in 2020.

McBride finished the night with two blocks, one steal, and three assists in 25 minutes as New York coach Tom Thibodeau gave him a long leash for his phenomenal play.

“You can’t say enough about what he did,” Thibodeau said. “That’s probably his best game as a pro.”

The last two games have been McBride’s best stretch in his young career, averaging 13.0 points, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks while shooting 69.2 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from deep.

After paying his dues in the G League, McBride jumped into the rotation on Dec. 4 as the ninth man. But he was relegated back to being situational after Josh Hart arrived at the trade deadline.

Playing time isn’t always guaranteed for being the 10th man on a deep roster. McBride made sure to make the most of it as he buys more time for the Knicks star point guard Jalen Brunson to recover from a foot injury.

Brunson’s return could come as soon as Saturday against the free-falling Denver Nuggets, who have lost four straight. But with the way McBride has been playing, will Thibodeau and the Knicks give more time for Brunson to fully recover and come out fresher for the stretch run to the playoffs?

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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