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Taj Gibson anchors defense as Knicks injuries continue

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Taj Gibson anchors defense as Knicks injuries continue.

Knicks centers Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson can’t stay healthy. But luckily, the Knicks still have 36-year-old Taj Gibson to rescue them on nights like Monday.

With Noel out again with a sprained knee and Robinson aggravating an already sprained ankle in the third quarter, Gibson stepped in and beefed up a defense that allowed just 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Brooklyn’s third-string center could become more valuable as Noel-Robinson’s injury saga unfolds.

Gibson’s box score rarely shows his determination, as he scored two points and didn’t have a field goal. But all you need to know is that the Knicks were a plus-22 in their 28 minutes on the floor.

“Wearing New York across the chest is enough,” Gibson said after the Knicks’ win over the Pacers. “Just going out trying to play hard, understanding the ups and downs of the season. A lot of teams are going through ups and downs and at this point, we were in a rut. I’m just trying to make a difference. I knew it was going to be a tough match, knowing how we had been laying eggs at home. I’ve been in the league a long time so I trust my instincts.”

The Knicks’ center position has not been a strength. Robinson is still getting in shape and appeared to be limping Saturday at Charlotte. Sure enough, he did not make it out of Monday’s game and played 15:51, going 1 for 2 and was a minus-14.

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

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

And backup center Nerlens Noel can’t stay on the court. He missed his third straight game on Monday. He has played in just 3 1/2 games out of 14. The last one is a knee sprain after battling hamstring/knee problems in the preseason when he did not play in any exhibition contests.

Robinson hasn’t spent many minutes as he is still struggling to recover from a broken foot he sustained last March.

“It’s still making its way,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously he was gone for a long period of time. It’s a work in progress in terms of conditioning. He’s a bit beaten up. That is all normal. If you are a professional athlete, that is what happens. ”

Robinson gained muscle weight and may appear a little less flexible, although much stronger.

“We monitor it pretty closely,” Thibodeau said. “Since he’s allowed to run more and condition himself, I think that will improve as we move forward.”

After signing a three-year, $ 32 million contract, Noel has returned to his injury-prone way early in his career.

Knicks fans on social media are excited about second-year power forward Obi Toppin, whose name is chanted at the Garden, should play more minutes than the 11 he averages.

He is a counterattack machine with outstanding dunks, but he has struggled on defense and with his three-point shot.

He was 0-for-2 from Monday 3 to reduce his percentage to 11 percent. In his 15:48 of action, he grabbed four rebounds, had two thrilling dunks and was a plus-10.

“It’s all about performance,” Thibodeau said. “It is not an individual thing. It’s a team thing. This is how the team is working and there has to be a balance between offense and defense. That also influences.”

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