Taj Gibson anchors defense as Knicks’ big-man injuries continue

Knicks centers Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson can’t stay healthy. The Knicks have Taj Gibson, a 36-year old relic to help them on nights such as Monday. 

Gibson joined the defense to boost a defense that only allowed 10 points in quarter four, with Robinson suffering from a sore knee. 

Brooklyn’s third-string centre could be more valued as the Noel Robinson injury story unfolds. 

Gibson’s box score rarely shows his grit and grind as he scored two points and didn’t have a field goal. You only need to know that in Gibson’s 28 minutes of playing, the Knicks were a plus-22. 

“Wearing New York across your chest is enough,’’ Gibson said after the Knicks’ come-from-behind victory over the Pacers. “Just going out there trying to just play hard, understanding the ups and downs of the season. There are many teams going through these highs/lows. Right now we’re in a rut. I’m trying to make an impact. I knew it was gonna be a tough game, knowing how we’ve been laying eggs at home. I’ve been in the league for a long time now, so just trusting my instincts.’’ 

Taj Gibson was defeated by the Knicks and the Pacers on Monday.
Robert Sabo

The Knicks center position hasn’t been a strength. Robinson looks a lot better and is continuing to improve. Sure enough, he didn’t make it out of Monday’s game and played 15:51, going 1 of 2 and was a minus-14. 

“We’ll see where he’s at,’’ Tom Thibodeau said. “Don’t think it’s serious.’’ 

He hasn’t been the dominant shot-blocker or alley-oop dunkmaster of his first three years. 

And backup center Nerlens Noel can’t stay on the court. On Monday, he missed his third straight match. He’s played in just 3  ½ games out of 14. The latest is a sprained knee after battling hamstring/knee issues in preseason when he didn’t play in any exhibition contests. 

Robinson hasn’t gone extended minutes as he still is battling back from a broken foot suffered last March. 

“He’s still working his way through it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Obviously he was out a long period of time. He’s a work in progress in terms of conditioning. He’s banged up a little bit. That’s all normal. If you’re a pro athlete, that’s what happens.’’ 

Robinson put on muscle weight and might look a little less limber — if much stronger. 

“We monitor that pretty closely,’’ Thibodeau said. “As he’s allowed to do more running and conditioning I think that’ll improve as we go.’’ 

Noel, who signed a 3-year, $32 Million deal, has returned to the early days of his career as an injury-prone man. 

Knicks fans on social media are all abuzz second-year power forward Obi Toppin, whose name chanted at the Garden, should play more minutes than the 11 he’s averaging. He’s a fast-break machine with highlight dunks but he has struggled on defense and with his 3-point shot. To bring his percentage to 11. percent, he went 0 for 2, from 3, Monday. He was active for 15 minutes and 48 seconds, with four rebound grabs and two thrilling dunks. 

“It’s all based on performance,’’ Thibodeau said. “It’s not an individual thing. It’s a team thing. It’s how the team is functioning and there has to be a balance to offense and defense. That factors into it as well.”

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