Nerlens Noel’s defense tremendous in Knicks’ win

MILWAUKEE — Now that he’s back, center Nerlens Noel has no issues coming off the bench for Mitchell Robinson and foresees the Knicks having “a Twin Towers’’ setup.

In the second game of his comeback Friday, Noel was “phenomenal’’ in Milwaukee on Friday in their 113-98 defeat of the defending champions.

The boxscore doesn’t always reflect Noel’s defensive worth, but he gave them 25 minutes of grit and grind with six points, 13 rebounds and finishing a plus-22.

“That’s who he is,’’ Thibodeau said. “We probably overlook all the other aspects of his defense because we always talk about the rim protection, which is obviously elite, but his pick-and-roll defense is terrific, as well. Just the way he can fly all over the court, he’s got great length, and it gives your team energy. It makes everyone feel good and easy. It changes things.’’

There’s been two “Twin Towers’’ alignments in Knicks history — in the late 1970s when the Knicks had Bill Cartwright and Marvin Webster. And then in the 1980s with Cartwright, and a young Patrick Ewing.

Nerlens Noel, at left, defends Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Nerlens Noel (left) defends Giannis Antetokounmpo.
USA TODAY Sports

Now it’s Robinson-Noel — two of the best shotblockers in the NBA.

“Me and Mitch do similar things but we do it different ways,” Noel said. “So I bring what I bring — being aggressive on the pick-and-rolls, hedging out and getting guys uncomfortable, as well as protecting the rim. Mitch brings what he brings with his size and physicality.”

“Mitch did a great job holding it down,’’ Noel added. “We want to get to the level of having two Twin Towers back and holding down the paint.’’

Noel missed the entire preseason with knee and hamstring issues and then the season’s first seven regular-season games. Noel said that it was his hamstring, not his knee.

He actually reinjured his hamstring when he was about pay in the preseason finale. He was therefore extra cautious before he returned for good.

“I’m very focused on having a great year and giving my best self to this team.’’ Noel said. “I didn’t want to have any setbacks. I wanted to be 100% upon my return. I owe that to this team and myself, and that’s what I did, and I’m feeling great now. Hit the ground running.”


Miles McBride, a rookie PG for the Knicks, has been a mop-up man during garbage time. He made four appearances and played four minutes through eight games. McBride was able to get in Friday’s final 26 seconds.

The Westchester Knicks hosted their season opener against Capital City Friday night. Thibodeau didn’t rule out giving a game here and there to McBride and rookie center Jericho Sims but believes it’s more important they are with the big club. Sims is now the fourth string center with Noel returning from injury.

“I like them with us. We will have them play when we have the chance [in the G League] we’ll try to take advantage of that. I believe that having substitutes in practice is an important part of having some of our guys. The value has to be what’s best for us. Our player development took a lot of effort. I like the idea of [G League]I love playing time and the closeness of it. We’ll see how it unfolds but right now I need them to be with us.’’

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