Softer part of Knicks’ schedule presents its own challenges

This should be the easy part.

After a successful 3-1 road trip against the Western Conference, the Knicks returned home Friday for a four-game stretch against all lottery-bound teams.

Two of the contests are at MSG — against the Nets on Saturday, then the Pistons on Monday — before matchups in Toronto and San Antonio.

Based on records, it might be the easiest consecutive four games on the Knicks schedule.

But there are injuries to consider — OG Anunoby, Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle were all ruled out again.

Plus, the turnaround is quick.

After 10 days on the road and flying to New York on Friday, tipoff for Saturday’s interborough game is 1 p.m.

The Knicks (41-28), holding down the fifth spot in the East, will enter the matchup a half-game behind No. 4 Orlando (42-28) and two games below No. 3 Cleveland (43-26).

The Nets (26-44), a trainwreck this season, are riding a five-game losing streak.

On the road trip, New York beat Portland, Sacramento and Golden State before falling to the Nuggets.

Josh Hart #3 of the New York Knicks drives against Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets during the first quarter at Ball Arena. Getty Images

“Definitely a building block,” Jalen Brunson said. “But you’re only as good as your last game so we’ve got to go back and regroup and get ready for Brooklyn. Definitely a successful road trip, but we can still learn.”

With just a little over three weeks and 13 games remaining in the regular season, Randle is still waiting to take contact and is “trying to strengthen the shoulder area,” Tom Thibodeau said.

“Some days have been better than others,” the coach added. “But just keep working at it and you never know when it turns. So that’s the way we have to approach it.”

Randle accompanied the Knicks on their four-game road trip but, according to periodic updates from Thibodeau, the power forward has been stuck on “light contact with pads” for about three weeks.

With a shoulder dislocation — which Randle suffered in late January — there’s a high incidence of re-injury and eventual surgery.

Randle opted against surgery, or at least put it off, because he wanted to return this season.

He was ruled out of Saturday’s game against the Nets, according to the injury report, which will represent his 24th consecutive DNP.

“[He’s] just working out,” Thibodeau said. “That’s all.”

Anunoby, who is being called “day to day” by Thibodeau, will miss his third straight game since leaving the team’s road trip to undergo an MRI exam on his surgically-repaired elbow.

Anunoby’s elbow “flared up,” Thibodeau said, but the MRI was clean.

Isaiah Hartenstein’s game is progressing in two areas lately.

One is his health, which has been a concern because of the sore Achilles.

Although still on a minutes restriction, the center’s explosion and physicality appear to have recovered to his pre-injury levels.

Isaiah Hartenstein appears that he is back to pre-injury physical levels. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Hartenstein’s dunk Thursday on Michael Porter Jr. was the latest reminder.

The other area is playmaking — with upticks the last two games in scoring — as Thibodeau gets more comfortable in using Hartenstein in an expanded offensive role.

Among other things, Hartenstein has been utilizing his floater.

“It’s just getting more looks,” said Hartenstein, who dropped 20 points in the loss to the Nuggets. “Sometimes, especially last year, I might not get a look, a consistent look, for like five, 10 games. So now just getting consistent looks, Thibs kinda seeing how it works, we’re kind of playing more off the elbow, playing more in the pocket. So it’s kind of playing my game that I know I’ve always had, but now I’m just getting more looks.”

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