The New York Knicks were “down bad” as the kids say nowadays. The team found itself down five with 45 seconds left against the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night, until center Isaiah Hartenstein made a crucial offensive rebound and block that completely changed the complexion of the contest.

Hartenstein's heroics even inspired an enthusiastic tweet from NBA legend Magic Johnson, via his X account.

“Isaiah Hartenstein is the hero of the Knicks with his 14 point, 8 rebound performance,” Johnson said. “He had both the game-winning offensive rebound that led to DiVincenzo’s game-winning 3 AND the block on Tyrese Maxey that secured the victory! What a wild, fun, and exciting playoff game!!”

Hartenstein was at the centerpiece of the game's wild ending sequence. After Jalen Brunson drilled a three-pointer to cut the deficit to two, Josh Hart stole the ball from Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey. Hart passed to Donte DiVincenzo, who missed a three. However, Hartenstein then hauled in the board over Tobias Harris, which led to DiVincenzo's dagger three.

Of course, the seven-footer then blocked Maxey on the other end with seven seconds left, as Johnson mentioned. OG Anunoby made two more free throws, and that was that. The Knicks secured an improbable 104-101 victory to give them a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Sixers.

Without Hartenstein's contributions, though, New York probably would've lost the game. This contest was yet another reminder of the former Clipper's consistency this year. How important has the Magic Johnson-approved big man been for the Knicks this season?

Hartenstein is an essential piece to the Knicks' puzzle this postseason

ew York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) in the third quarter in game one of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden.
© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Hartenstein's clutch moments should come as no surprise to New York fans, as he's been producing all year. The fifth-year center averaged 7.8 points on 64.4% shooting, with 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.2 steals in 25.3 minutes per game in the regular season.

Hartenstein's contributions were especially important considering the fact that Mitchell Robinson missed 51 games. The 2017 second-round pick emerged in his absence, recording career-high averages in rebounds, minutes and steals, while also tying his career-high in assists.

Hartenstein was unconscious from the field Monday night, converting 7-of-8 shots. He also recorded three blocks, including the clutch one on Maxey in the last moments of the game. The 25-year-old sounded off on the exciting ending sequence postgame, via Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post.

“We don’t give up,” Hartenstein would say. “There’s a lot of teams that might give up in that situation but we don’t. It starts with [coach Tom Thibodeau], who won’t let us, but the whole team buys in.”

Although Robinson is back in the rotation, it speaks volumes that Thibodeau went with Hartenstein over him in the game's most critical moment. The former NBA G League Finals MVP has come a long way since totaling eight starts over his previous two campaigns. His hard work manifested into two critical plays in a crucial playoff moment.

“We had a belief we could come back,” Hartenstein said. “And we did.”

Now, the Knicks will look ahead to Game 3 in Philadelphia Thursday night. If Hartenstein keeps stringing together clutch performances, don't be surprised if he finds himself getting a pay raise in the near future.