Several hours before Game 1, Isaiah Hartenstein stressed the need for the Knicks to play harder. Then back up those bold words.
The 7-foot backup was one of the unsung heroes in the Knicks’ come-from-behind victory, 111-105 in Game Two at the Garden, helping them control the paint in a landslide victory.
With Mitchell Robinson struggling with foul trouble, Hartenstein gave the Knicks a shake-up, as he recorded three points, nine rebounds, a block and an assist in the tying set victory.
“I think that was one thing that I really saw as I watched [first] Where we weren’t physically enough,’ Hartenstein said. “I try to be as physical as possible, whether it’s putting up a screen a bit harder, boxing a little bit harder, or just trying to be as physical as possible.”
He was a big part of the Knicks’ 17-7 run in the fourth quarter.
It included a four-point play where he made an error while setting up a screen to free up Jalen Brunson’s three-pointer and an offensive possession that lasted 1:07.
The Knicks recovered four offensive rebounds on possession, three by Hartenstein, which resulted in a Josh Hart 3-pointer and pulled the Knicks even at 96 with 4:45 left. They were never late again.
“I think it kind of showed who we are as a team,” Hartenstein said, referring to the long possession. “No matter what happens, we stick together and keep going. This is what brought us here. Just being physical, playing together and carrying on.”
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In the first game, the Knicks managed to outpace the Heat by nine, but it wasn’t the edge many expected. Tuesday was in keeping with what the older, taller Knicks believed he could do on the glass. They were +16 in that main category and converted 11 offensive rebounds into 16 second chance points. Hartenstein was a big part of that.
“Rebounding is always key. “If you look at almost every series in the playoffs, the natural bounce wins,” he said before the game. “This is another thing [category] We always have to win.”
The Knicks won the rebounding battle Tuesday night, helping them even the series.