PORTLAND, Ore. — Knicks center Mitchell Robinson didn’t have a healthy Western trip. Robinson missed the game at Denver this past Tuesday with a bad back and had to leave in the third quarter of the 112-103 loss to the Trail Blazers on Saturday after he was hobbling around the court with a sprained left ankle.
Robinson had one of his least potent lines of the season (two points, three blocks, no rebounds in 14 minutes) as he got in early foul trouble, with three in the first quarter. The Knicks were already missing Nerlens Noel, and the tandem of Taj Gibson and Jericho Sims couldn’t hold off the ferocious Blazers, who outscored the Knicks 35-11 in the fourth quarter.
Gibson eventually fouled out and Julius Randle was pressed into center duty as coach Tom Thibodeau used him with four wings. They couldn’t rebound that way either. Thibodeau didn’t want to go with Obi Toppin, who had a miserable trip, lowlighted by his scoreless eight minutes Saturday.
“The penetration hurts us,” Thibodeau said. “I thought the first half, the defense was pretty good. In the second half, it was very poor. Mitch went out early, so Taj’s minutes ran up and then we had to get Taj out of there. Then we tried to go with Jericho and that wasn’t working, then we went small, then we just brought Taj back. If we’re small, we need everyone fighting for rebounds.”
Mitchell Robinson battles for a rebound with Trendon Watford during the Knicks’ 112-103 loss to the Trail Blazers.AP
Cam Reddish had a sore ankle and had to be removed early in the fourth quarter. He scored six points in 14 minutes.
Randle isn’t headed to the upcoming All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, but Portland coach Chauncey Billups sounds as if he believes the Knicks forward belongs.
“To me, he’s a matchup nightmare, man,” Billups said. “He’s multi-talented, multi-skilled offensively. He demands a double team at times. He plays so hard. He hurts you in a lot of different ways. He’s a beast in my eyes. He’s a tough cover.”
Randle made the All-Star Game for the first time in his career last season, but has only been playing like a star on this Western swing. On the five-game trip, Randle averaged 20 points and 13.9 rebounds.
It was an eventful trip for Randle, whom the Knicks, according to an NBA source, had made available at the trade deadline for the right price. In an attempt to stay more limber, Randle didn’t line up for the national anthem during the five-game trip and during the last four games he skipped the formal pregame player introduction to loosen up so he could play at a faster pace.
RJ Barrett was still limping Saturday, without a walking boot, a she missed a second straight game with a sprained left ankle. The Knicks are 1-1 without him. Barrett still wears the boot on occasion.
“I think he’s just day-to-day,” Thibodeau said. “Usually it’s just pretty standard to have the boot on to get the swelling out.”
Barrett seems in jeopardy of missing the final two games before the All-Star break — against the Thunder on Monday and against the Nets on Wednesday. It’s an unfortunate occurrence, since he was injured with 18 seconds left in the blowout loss at Denver this past Tuesday, when he should’ve been safely on the bench.