The New York Knicks spoiled Victor Wembanyama’s highly anticipated Madison Square Garden debut on Wednesday night. Three Knicks scored at least 20 points and New York routed the San Antonio Spurs by a final score of 126-105.
There isn’t much to say about the win. The Knicks were 10-point favorites and took care of business at home against an inferior opponent. As it should be, right?
With that said, it’s absolutely noteworthy that the Knicks kept rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama in check. Did jitters get the best of the young Frenchman or did centers Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein give him the work?
It was a team effort, obviously, but it’s clear by their postgame gesture on Instagram that Robinson and Hartenstein took this matchup personally.
Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein celebrate on Instagram after beating Spurs, Victor Wembanyama
Inject this right into our veins, please.
Robinson and Hartenstein are two of the Knicks biggest unsung heroes. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles in today’s NBA. Ball-handlers generally get more recognition nationally. Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all exceptions in that regard.
Knicks fans, however, appreciate what Robinson and Hartenstein bring to the table, and Wednesday’s win encapsulated their respective values.
The duo got physical with the slender Wembanyama and it overwhelmed him. He finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds on 4-of-14 shooting (28.5%), including 0-of-6 on threes. He was even a team-worst -25 over his 32 minutes on the hardwood.
Wemby was always going to have some semblance of growing pains transitioning to the NBA. Spearheaded by Robinson and Hartenstein, the Knicks have seemingly given the rest of the league the blueprint on how to limit Wembanyama’s impact: overwhelm him physically.
This was Wembanyama’s worst performance thus far. Over the Spurs’ first four games, the 19-year-old averaged 22.5 points on 44% shooting. That’s a credit to Tom Thibodeau as much as anyone, but Robinson and Hartenstein deserve plaudits for executing Thibs’ game plan to a tee.
While Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson have endured rough starts to the new campaign, Robinson and Hartenstein have been awesome. The former has arguably been the NBA’s best offensive rebounder while dominating defensively, and the latter was maybe the best player on the floor Wednesday.
Both players are locked in, and the fact they’re hyping up each other off the court is great news for Knicks fans.
Just wait until Brunson and Randle get going.