Josh Hart puts together playoff highlights as a big payday awaits

CLEVELAND – When the heat and pressure mount, Josh Hart is built to head for the smoke.

“The fourth quarter, and especially the last 6 minutes, is the winning time,” Hart said before Game 5 in New York on Wednesday. “In my mind, there is no fatigue, no fatigue, no injury. If I’m there, that’s when I need to raise my attention to detail, raise my intensity, raise my energy even more. And that’s something I’ve always been driven to do. So for me, once the time comes, it’s totally different. In my eyes, it’s 0-0 and you have to win it.”

Other than Jalen Brunson, there is no bigger success story this campaign for the Knicks than Hart. His acquisition in February he immediately changed the team’s trajectory, and the positive impact only increased in the playoffs.

It was the perfect match. The Knicks demanded Hart’s defense and intangibles, and the player needed a platform to increase his value heading into free agency. Bobby Marks, a longtime NBA executive and current ESPN front office insider, told the Daily News that Hart could be looking for an annual salary between “$16-18 million.”

That would translate to roughly $70 million over four years, and the Knicks have the advantage of owning Hart’s Bird Rights. Such a market would obviously cause Hart to decline his $12.9 million option for next season, which Marks noted is attached to a June 24 deadline.

It’s a worthy investment if the 28-year-old Hart continues to produce at this level. Players so willing to sacrifice themselves and put in the dirty work don’t come around all that often in the NBA these days.

With Quentin Grimes fighting and serially woundedHart was Donovan Mitchell’s primary defender in Cleveland – a task he fulfilled prior to Game 5.

On offense, Hart committed to crashing the boards. He takes pleasure in an offensive rebound the way another player might internalize a game-winning buzzer-beater. Three days after the Game 4 victory, Hart was still glowing from his comeback that led to Brunson’s 3-pointer with 1:45 left.

“I get those rebounds that break teams, like the ones where they’re going to be, ‘st,'” Hart said. “It’s running out. Call timeout, go to the bank. And for us we are excited. Well, their spirits are low. That’s what I want to do. Those are the plays I want to make that break teams.”

Heading into Game 5, Hart had more fourth quarter rebounds than any player in the series (on either team). Only Brunson had more points in the fourth quarter than Hart.

He was killing the Cavs when it mattered most.

“Research report on me, do this, do this, do this. But this effort plays, it’s hard to research,” Hart said. “And if you don’t defend that for 48 minutes, you’re going to slip.

And a lot of times that slip is in the last 4-6 minutes of the game, when you start falling back on habits that for a guard you’re not used to getting or blocking another guard, that late. game. I know that, I know that’s when the slide happens, and for me, that’s when I take it to another level.”


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