5 Things To Look For From Knicks

Life without star Kristaps Porzingis began Thursday night, and like the torn ACL he suffered in his left knee on Tuesday night at The Garden, it was painful to watch.

Not only were the Knicks without KP, who will undergo surgery as soon as the swelling subsides, they also were without Enes Kanter, who underwent oral surgery to close a gash in his mouth, and Ron Baker, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery.

At one point in the team’s 113-88 loss to the formidable Raptors in Toronto, the Knicks had three players from their Westchester affiliate on the court.

No doubt these are tough times for the franchise, which fell to a season-low 23-33, 5 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the East.

[Watch Knicks-Pacers Sunday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

When asked if Knicks fans had resigned themselves to the team focusing on obtaining the highest spot in the next NBA Draft, guard Tim Hardaway Jr. told reporters in Canada that if that’s the case then they’re “rooting for the wrong team.”

Say what you want about this season but this is undisputed: This is a tight group that has each other’s back. If you don’t think that’s important, look at the mess the Cleveland Cavaliers had become before overhauling their roster at the trade deadline.

And although the Knicks continue to get younger (and more athletic), the culture change of hard work and competitiveness that came with the hiring of team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry is taking place.

Knicks fans might rightly believe the team’s playoff chances went down with KP but that’s not the focus of the organization. They remain committed to building a roster that will bring sustained success.

Here’s a look at the five questions the Knicks will seek to answer in the final 26 games.

1 Getting the point

The Knicks obtained point guard Emmanuel Mudiay on Thursday. Mudiay was the 7th player picked in the 2015 Draft. The Knicks were thinking about taking him with No. 4 pick in that draft but instead went with Porzingis. Mudiay is an athletic, attacking point guard who turns 22 next month.

The acquisition gives the Knicks three young point guards in Mudiay (21), Trey Burke (25: the 9th player picked in 2013) and Frank Ntilikina (19: 8th player picked in 2017). When asked about the acquisition of Mudiay, Ntilikina was all in.

“It’s good — a young player, good for our future,” Ntilikina said. “We both can play off the ball. Both can play with the ball. It gives us a lot more options.

“We’re going to bring each other to the top to make the Knicks a competitive team.’’

Let’s see who rises.

2 Hard Times For Hardaway

Hardaway has earned respect with his toughness and competitiveness on both ends of the court and his professionalism. After returning from a six-week absence because of a stress reaction injury in his lower left leg, Hardaway shot the ball great in his first four games back. He has slumped of late, making just 13-of-60 in his last five games.

It’s possible the leg isn’t as strong as it was pre-injury but whatever the reason, the Knicks need to get Hardaway right. He had established himself as the clear second option behind Porzingis. Without KP, it would be a great sign going into 2018-19 if Hardaway emerged as the clear first option in the final third of the season.

“I’m just trying to focus on basketball and do every little thing,” Hardaway told reporters. “I know it’s [a] struggle right now. I’m not going to harp on it.”

3 Showtime For Westchester Knicks

Forwards Luke Kornet and Isaiah Hicks both made their NBA debuts against the Raptors. Hicks had five points in 17 minutes and had those first-game jitters. Kornet, a sweet shooting, 7-foot-1 stretch forward, posted a double-double (11 points on 3-of-7 shooting from three, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots) in 22 minutes. Impressive.

“We wanted to see what these new guys do in these games,” coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters. “We know Luke would get some time. We like what he does. He can shoot the 3, go to the basket and block some shots. He’s going to get better and better as he plays against these better guys. Pretty happy the way he played.”

4 Enes the Menace

Kanter, 25, is averaging career-highs in rebounds (10.6), shooting (60.5-percent), free throw shooting (87.3-percent) and assists (1.5). He plays with an old-school passion and has one of the most refreshing personalities in the league.

Kanter recently has experienced some back soreness and suffered a gash in his mouth, which was re-injured and required surgery. If he continues to play at the same level, the Knicks have a great post presence to complement Porzingis.

5 Can KP Return as The Unicorn?

The answer is ‘Yes’ (asterisk)! No two players are the same and no two torn ACLs will respond the same way after surgery. Having said that, consider this abbreviated list: Baron Davis, Al Harrington, Al Jefferson, Bernard King, Kyle Lowry, Ricky Rubio, David West. All had ACL reconstructive surgery and all returned to play at a higher level.

There’s a reason players from around the league come to New York to be seen by doctors, usually at the Hospital for Special Surgery. There’s no better facility in the world. KP will get the best treatment possible and there’s no reason the 22-year-old can’t return as a Top-10 player.

“We’ve got tremendous confidence in our medical group here that he’s going to make more than a full recovery,” Perry said. “Whenever that time is when he’s back on the court, we expect him to be back at full strength and better than ever. And that was our message to him and that’s his message to us. So I think he’s entering this thing with the right mentality.’’

[Watch Knicks-Pacers Sunday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]