ORLANDO – As the Knicks assess their needs ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, perhaps they already are developing an emerging perimeter player who can help them from within.
Second-year point guard Miles McBride was an astounding plus-34 over 23 minutes off the bench Sunday night, matching his season-high with 14 points in the shorthanded Knicks’ home win over the 76ers.
McBride, who entered the game averaging about 13 minutes per game this season, also played the entire fourth quarter alongside Jalen Brunson with Immanuel Quickley “nicked up,” according to coach Tom Thibodeau, and starter RJ Barrett sidelined with a non-COVID illness.
“It feels great. Just being a second year player, obviously he [Thibodeau] could go to guys that are older and more experienced. And obviously we didn’t have RJ, and he felt like I had it going and just stuck with me,” said McBride, who nailed a key 3-pointer for an eight-point lead with 3:22 to go. “It felt great. My teammates trusted me, to find me in the corner.
“I think it was Evan [Fournier] that found me in the corner, and I took my time and hit the shot. So I just felt like coach trusted me at the end of the game, and it felt good.”
After a slow start to the season from long distance, McBride has started to heat up and gain confidence in his outside shot. He has nailed seven of 11 from beyond the arc in his last three appearances after previously connecting on just 25.2 percent (23-for-91) this season.
“We track everything in practice. When you look at how he shoots the ball every day in practice it gives you confidence that eventually it will translate into the game,” Thibodeau said after the game. “We watch Jericho [Sims], tracking his free throws in practice, we see the improvement. Usually you have to do it in practice first and when you see improvement; same thing that happened with Obi [Toppin] with his 3, when you develop consistency and a routine, right?
“That’s where your confidence comes from. We knew that the numbers were saying that [McBride] shoots the ball great in practice. So eventually it’s going to happen. I think the more he plays, he starts to slow down and gets [into a] rhythm and he’ll knock those shots down.”
Fournier, who was dropped from the rotation in November to afford McBride and Quentin Grimes regular roles, also provided a boost off the bench Sunday night with a season-high 17 points. And backup center Isaiah Hartenstein grabbed 14 rebounds and battled All-Star big man Joel Embiid throughout until fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Thibodeau primarily stuck with his four-man second unit – alongside Brunson — for most of the fourth quarter to close out one of the East’s hottest teams. That group also helped get the Knicks back in the game in the first half after the Sixers were spotted a 33-12 lead.
“Really, just not looking at the scoreboard and just taking it play by play. Just chip away at it one play at a time,” the 22-year-old McBride said. “We know who our main guys are. So I think whatever I can do to help us win is the main thing. If that’s making shots, OK, that’s great, but also being a defensive player and coming in and maybe getting an assist and affecting the game in a positive way.
“Obviously, some guys have been out, been down, and somebody needed to step up. I felt like it would be a great opportunity for me to come in and show what I have.”