A lot will be made of Kristaps Porzingis and his dust-up with Marquese Chriss in the third quarter, but don’t get caught up in the hype over a 19-year-old acting tough against the Latvian star. That was hardly a stance by KP against the “Soft European” stigma. He’s far beyond having to prove his mettle, especially against a marginally-talented, athletic teenager who was unable to control his emotions.
But what should be the story is the real reason why Porzingis was seething in the locker room after the game: his two missed shots in the final 90 seconds of a game the Knicks (14-11) could have stolen. I say stolen because, for most of the night, the Knicks hardly played well enough to win the game.
“Gotta move forward,” Porzingis grumbled, “and learn from this game.”
Pay no mind to the minor shoving match. Porzingis got over it the second he went to the free throw line. Sure, it fired him up and fueled a dominant second half in which he was an unstoppable force. Another unicorn stat line was produced, with 34 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals and 4-for-4 from three-point range (ask Basketball-Reference.com when that’s ever happened in NBA history).
But it was the 12-foot bank shot with 1:30 left that he rushed, which caused the ball to bounce off the rim, that had KP annoyed. He knew he rushed it. He normally drops those in effortlessly.
Then, in the final seconds, he got his chance that he’d been waiting for since that Charlotte game early last season. Remember after Carmelo Anthony hit that last-second basket in Minnesota? Porzingis said hoped to get that chance for a game-winner one day but quickly added, “My time will come.”
It came in Phoenix. With Melo struggling with his shot and waving the ball towards KP’s side, the game was in his hands with the clock winding down and the score tied at 101. He got off a clean look, though it was contested, and it bounced off the front rim. He essentially short-armed it.
Overtime included one more big shot — a three-pointer to give the Knicks a 108-105 lead, but on the next possession he was hit with his sixth foul and left the game. The Knicks best chance to win left as he headed to the bench.
Melo (3-for-15), who played like an iPhone on 5% battery, managed one potentially heroic shot with 41 seconds left to give the Knicks an 110-109 lead, but the defense could not slow down Eric Bledsoe (31 points) and Melo could not conjure up one last miracle.
A road trip that could have started 3-0 is suddenly a precarious 2-1 as the Knicks next face the Warriors (22-4) on Thursday night. It ends in Denver on Saturday, which is as tough of a location — 5,280 feet above sea level — to end a road trip as you can have.
Add to that the uncertainty of Derrick Rose (back spasms), who left the game after the first quarter and talked as if he may not be available for a game at Golden State where the Knicks will desperately need all hands on deck.
Rose, who had missed two games with back spasms, said he “couldn’t move out there” against the Suns and sounded frustrated.
“If anything, I just don’t want to get out of my rhythm,” he said of potentially missing more time. “I feel like I’m in a great rhythm right now.”
That’s what made this loss in Phoenix so troubling. The game was there to steal and get out of town with a 3-0 start and some house money in your pocket.
Thursday’s game is a TNT broadcast, so we’ll see you next on Saturday night in Denver with Knicks Game Night starting at 8:30 p.m. on MSG.