How will the Knicks match up without Josh Hart for Game 2?

After Julius Randle returned from a sprained ankle against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New York Knicks are now forced to deal with another ankle injury as Josh Hart is listed as questionable after spraining his ankle in Game 2. Final minutes of Saturday’s game.

Although Hart is not the Knicks’ starter, losing him in Game 2 is a huge loss for the team. Hart was 29th in the NBA in wins at 7.3 and 20th in the league in plus/minus, posting a 4.1 rating among players who appeared in more than 60 games.

In Game 1, he had 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one steal in 33 minutes. Everything he brings to the table fits perfectly with Cleveland’s weaknesses.

After Hart was traded to the Knicks, he said“I’m a physical guy. I’m a bad guy. I’ll be back again, will defend. Get on the floor for a loose ball and do things like that.

That physicality was on display in Game 1 and was a key reason Hart was able to grab five offensive rebounds. With Emmanuelle Cloy struggling off the bench and no Knicks starters except Mitchell Robinson shooting over 50% from the court, Hart was instrumental in cleaning up his teammates’ losses, playing that “dirty job” role to perfection as the Cavaliers took center stage. Jarrett Allen mentioned Hart by name as Cleveland struggled to regroup in Game 1.

New York Knicks guard Josh Hart watches warmups before the team’s NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Brian Woolston)

It’s not a given that Hart will miss the game given his competitive streak, but the Knicks will likely plan to look like he’s in uniform. So what will the team do if Hart misses Game 2?

For starters, a lot is going to fall on Quickley’s shoulders off the bench. He has struggled a bit with the Cavaliers this season, averaging just 10.5 points in 25.2 minutes. He failed to make a single shot from the floor in Game 1, but without Hart he can play more minutes than any other bench player and Hart needs to bring some of the energy/play he usually does.

Quickley and Quentin Grimes should handle a large share of the perimeter defensive responsibilities over Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Without Hart rotating off the bench, Grimes can often be asked to play on Mitchell, and while “Spida” will certainly get the points, Grimes will have to keep him from dominating the game.

Also, since Myles McBride is the Knicks’ best perimeter defender, it would make sense to replace Hart. Although he’s not Hart’s go-to player on offense, McBride could be a valuable asset to the Knicks if he can spell Grimes and Chailey for some minutes and guard Mitchell or Garland.

McBride has been a frequent offensive rebounder, having had a few solid shooting nights over the past few months, so his shot could be down. Even if that doesn’t happen, Kicks head coach Tom Thibodeau could play McBride alongside sh0t creators like Julius Randle and Quickley to alleviate the lack of offensive firepower.

In addition to more bench minutes, Obi Toppin, who was fantastic in the minutes on Saturday, could go down, hitting two shots from beyond the arc and getting the Knicks going in transition. While Toppin brings the same power and fast-break ability that Hart does, he’s still a work in progress on defense, so Thibodeau needs to be careful with the lineups he uses Toppin. He replaced Hart.

At the end of the day, it could be another opportunity for the Knicks to showcase their depth, as they did during the regular season with Robinson, Randle and Jalen Brunson missing. It was a season where he proved his determination and depth many times.

Not yet on this big stage.

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