ATLANTA — Three weeks ago, Isaiah Hartenstein made the game-clinching defensive stop as the Knicks defeated the Cavaliers. Afterward, he expressed optimism that his improving health would lead to more consistent play.
He has backed up those words.
The 7-foot free agent acquisition from the Clippers continued to impress Wednesday night in a 122-101 rout of the Hawks at State Farm Arena, notching six points, 11 rebounds and three blocks off the bench. A frustrating Achilles injury has been far less of an issue lately. Over his past 12 games, Hartenstein is averaging 6.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 24.9 minutes.
“That’s been the biggest change,” Hartenstein told The Post. “I feel like I can do the role that I need to do here a lot better with how good my Achilles is now feeling. … My main thing was helping the team win. Now it’s coming back where I’m doing the little stuff to help the team win.”
One particular play stood out Wednesday in the Knicks’ third straight win. In the second quarter, Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu went for a big dunk and Hartenstein stood him up, rejecting the shot.
“It felt good,” he said. “Me and Okongwu always — since I’ve been in the NBA — have had a lot of good battles. It was good to get one.”
Hartenstein’s improved play and the performance of Jericho Sims jhave enabled the Knicks to stay afloat without defensive linchpin Mitchell Robinson. They are 8-6 since Robinson, who could return after the All-Star break, suffered a fractured right thumb on Jan. 18.
“I mentioned this other night, the big thing is anytime someone goes out, and you hate to see anybody be injured, it’s an opportunity for someone else to step in and grow,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think Jericho getting into that role has really been helpful for him and for us. I said this earlier, I love the depth we have at that position…. I don’t want to overlook the contributions Isaiah’s made. Isaiah has found a really good rhythm. He’s playing really well on both sides of the ball. So we’re getting really good production out of that position.”
Thibodeau doesn’t have any big plans for the All-Star break.
“I’ll be at Club Tarrytown,” he joked, a reference to the location of the Knicks’ practice facility.
Archbishop Stepinac alum and Ossining, N.Y., native AJ Griffin scored 12 points off the bench for the Hawks.