“He’s a great player, one of the best in the league right now,” Robinson said of Wembanyama via SNY. “Especially he’s 7-6, can put it on the floor, shoot it. So, it’s a challenge, but you need to do what you got to do.”
Robinson followed through on his defensive game plan against Wembanyama, which he also did against Kristaps Porzingis on opening night.
Robinson’s defense held him to a 0-of-6 shooting, including two airballs in a forgettable first half of his Garden debut.
The highly-touted top pick finished with 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting and nine rebounds, overcoming a rough first half. The French rookie played much better in the second half.
Wembanyama scored 12 points in the final two quarters, including a beautiful spin move leading to a slam.
During the shootaround, Wembanyama stirred controversy when he said, “[the Madison Square Garden] is not as big as I expected.”
But soon, he quickly realized after the tip-off that his Garden debut at the age of 19 was too big of a moment.
Wembanyama shrunk under the bright lights of the world’s most famous arena.
“Even for me, the lights were brighter than expected,” Wembanyama admitted.
Instead of cheers, he was welcomed with jeers.
Chants of “Overrated” got on his nerves in the first half.
Robinson, who is coming into his own, dominated him.
The 7-foot Knicks center grabbed 12 rebounds, five in the offensive glass that hiked his league-leading average to 6.3 per game. He added eight points for the Knicks, who went on a 13-0 start and never looked back.
Knicks Finally Catching Rhythm
The Knicks have won back-to-back games as they finally caught a rhythm.
They hit 19 3-pointers against the Spurs. Over their last two games, the Knicks are connecting on 42% from downtown.
“We were flying around early,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said via New York Post. “We were very unselfish, had a good rhythm, made our 3s.”
The Knicks’ shooting, which comes and goes, needs to become consistent to go with their league’s second-best defense (103.7 defensive rating) if they are to leap their second-round finish last season.
Julius Randle Back on Track
A big part of the Knicks’ turnaround over their last two games is Julius Randle‘s much-improved play.
Randle followed up his season-high 27-point outing in their win over the Los Angeles Clippers with 23 against the Spurs. He finished with his seventh double-double with a season-best 16 rebounds.
Randle shot 42.5% in both wins, a big jump from his atrocious shooting in his first six games, where he shot 27.1%, the worst percentage by a player in their first 6 games of a season since 1959 (min. 90 field goal attempts), per Basketball Reference.
Randle points to the Knicks’ 28 assists in both wins as the biggest reason why they are starting to catch their rhythm.
“That’s the key. Ball movement. Everybody gets touches. Play off each other. Everybody naturally gets in a rhythm and (the ball) always finds you,” Randle said via SNY.