Quentin Grimes’ blocking of Donovan Mitchell solidifies his Knicks status

On an embarrassing night for the Knicks, Quentin Grimes did what his team’s front office couldn’t: He locked up Donovan Mitchell.

For the first time since the New York native was traded to the Cavaliers rather than the Knicks, Mitchell returned to the park on Sunday. He got a chance to show the franchise and its fans that he was a star worthy of emptying all the assets in the team’s trade coffers, which Cleveland did.

The Knicks kept their assets and the young pieces they picked up, including Grimes, who they didn’t want to send to Utah.

For at least one game, Grimes showed why the Knicks kept him tight — by keeping Mitchell tight.

Mitchell scored 23 points, but went 8-for-22 on 8-for-22 shooting and 2-of-11 from 3-point range, covered by the physical Grimes everywhere he went.

Quentin Grimes guards Donovan Mitchell during the Knicks’ win over the Cavaliers.

“I knew it was going to be a big game with everything that’s happened this summer,” Grimes said after the Knicks held an opponent under 100 points for the first time this season. won 92-81. “He’s one of the best players in the NBA. I had to stay in and I feel like I did him a good job.

Grimes often knocked the ball out of Mitchell’s hands. It used its 4-inch advantage for traction, but was also quick enough to carve up driving lanes.

He struggled on screens and showed solid strength and impressive defensive ability for the second straight game. In Saturday’s loss to the Mavericks, he stuck with the taller Luka Doncic. When Grimes guarded Mitchell and Doncic — the two primary guards in the game — they shot 7-for-18 for 18 points.

Grimes’ offensive game still needs to be developed, but the point guard has solidified both a top winger and starting position.

“Quentin has great legs. He’s got the drive, the drive, and you’re going to have to work,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the Knicks improved to 11-13 on Sunday. “They [elite] Guys, you can protect them wonderfully, and the great thing about them is that they have the ability to do [shots]. But if you make them work, during the game you make them work for those points, maybe it pays off.

“Quentin also has the physicality. Every game, he’s ready for everything.”

Grimes missed eight of the first 10 games this season because of a sore left foot that he hasn’t shaken since practice. He didn’t play or barely played in the next six games, buried in the rotation, so he didn’t appear for the first month of the season.

But on November 20, Thibodeau inserted Grimes into the starting lineup and found his best winger. Through eight games, Grimes has found his offensive rhythm, averaging just 8.3 points on 45.2 percent shooting from the field, but has been adept at sticking with the opposing team’s top scorer, as evidenced by Doncic and Mitchell.

Knicks guard Quentin Grimes collided with Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love as he attempted to defend Donovan Mitchell.

“He played his hands every night. That’s huge,” RJ Barrett said after the Knicks shot 34.9 percent against the Cavs on Sunday. “We need him in this [stopper] role. That’s good, especially with what he did tonight against Donovan. It is not an easy thing to do. He is a really good player.”

The emergence of the 2021 first-round pick came with dominoes. Cam Reddish and Derrick Rose were benched Sunday for the first time this season as healthy DNPs, though Thibodeau talked back about giving Rose some rest. Reddish was used defensively against the Mavericks and may have fallen out of the rotation.

Thibodeau said he feels Grimes, whose 3-point shot is spotty, will get more time on offense.

As the Knicks evaluate who should be a part of their future, Grimes’ defensive chops — which will be tested again Wednesday against Tray Young’s Hawks at the Garden — may make them feel a little better about their recent decisions.

“I think people would be lying if they said they weren’t going in with an edge and a chip on their shoulder,” Grimes said of joining trade discussions this offseason. “So I just want to go in, just do what I do, don’t worry too much about it. Because if I do, I feel like I’m left out.

“But come with the mindset that I have every day. I feel like I did that today.”

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