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Isaiah Hartenstein Makes Knicks Playoff History

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The New York Knicks needed to rebound from an embarrassing performance in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Isaiah Hartenstein did them 12 better.

Hartenstein joined metropolitan rebounding royalty in Game 5 on Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers, pulling in a dozen offensive boards in a 121-91 beatdown. The second-year New Yorker becomes just the ninth player in the NBA playoff history to create a dozen second chances (the first since Jonas Valanciunas in 2022) and the second Knick to pull off the feat, now sharing the postseason record with Charles Oakley (1994).

May 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) reacts after

May 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) reacts after / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

“I just want to be more physical,” Hartenstein, he of 17 total rebounds, said, per Peter Sblendorio of the New York Daily News. “I feel like the games in Indiana, I wasn’t playing like myself. I wasn’t being physical. I was letting them kind of play how I play, so just coming in, that was the biggest thing I wanted to do: Just be physical, just play my game.”

The Knicks lost the battle on the boards in each of the couple staged in Indianapolis, both losses. New York went with a smaller lineup for Game 5, swapping Miles McBride for Precious Achiuwa.

While McBride and fellow backcourt man Jalen Brunson partly stole the show, there’s no denying that Hartenstein was a difference-maker: his second chance helped the Knicks overcome an early deficit and create fresh opportunities. Josh Hart, who had 11 rebounds of his own in an 18-point double-double, also lauded the big man for taking advantage of his further offensive opportunities: Hartenstein had seven points and dished out five assists, the latter being second-best on the team behind Brunson’s seven.

“You’ve got to give Zay a tremendous amount of credit….that’s something we need him to do,” Hart said, per Phillip Martinez of SNY. “When they blitz Jalen, they’re in scramble mode and that’s when they have a small on him or Donte (DiVincenzo) has no one guarding him…. Great effort and we need to keep that up.”

May 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) dunks the ball

May 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) dunks the ball / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

“I thought Isaiah was phenomenal,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau further lauded in Sblendorio’s report. “It was a great team effort, but Isaiah in particular, those extra possessions were huge for us.””

The legend of Hartenstein thus continues, one that sees him continuing to brilliantly step in for injured starting staple Mitchell Robinson. Hartenstein’s efforts should no doubt fetch him a hefty contract on the free agent market, but whether the Knicks are the one writing his future checks remains to be seen.

In any event, New York will continue to make the most of Hartenstein’s super substitution while it still definitively can. The next opportunity to do so lands on Friday, when the Knicks get the first of two chances to punch their Eastern Conference Finals ticket in Indianapolis (TBD, ESPN).

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