The Knicks not only survived without Kristaps Porzingis for the final 45 minutes against the Miami Heat last Wednesday they thrived, easily disposing of an undermanned and road weary opponent.
Now they may have to go the full 48 without their leading scorer.
Porzingis is listed as questionable for Sunday’s matinee against the Orlando Magic with a sprained right ankle. He’s also battling an undisclosed illness, believed to be the flu, which prevented him from attending Saturday’s practice.
With the Knicks playing the second night of a back-to-back at Indiana on Monday it is reasonable to assume that Porzingis will be held out Sunday thus giving him four full days to recover if he does play against the Pacers.
“We have a long season,” Jarrett Jack said. “If he has to sit for one or two games so we can have him for the next 15 so be it.”
Wednesday was a positive outcome all the way around; the Knicks were victorious without Porzingis and the injury, which looked bad at the time, isn’t considered serious. X-rays were negative and a an MRI taken on Thursday did not reveal any significant damage.
Still, Porzingis’ durability has been an issue since he entered the league as a skinny 19-year-old. He’s already missed 28 games over two-plus NBA seasons.
However, head coach Jeff Hornacek dismissed the notion that Porzingis may not be physically able to play in 75-plus games a year, noting that the league’s new player-friendly schedule provides more rest/recovery days. To that point, the Knicks last played on Wednesday.
“He’s still young,” Hornacek said. “He is 7-foot-3 and there are going to be times has bumps and bruises and stuff like that. It was kind of a pride thing back in the day to play all 82. They’re spreading games out, eliminating four games in five nights. So barring any injuries there is no reason to rest anymore.”
Kristaps Porzingis was barely putting pressure on the ankle as he was carried off.
(Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports)
On Friday, Porzingis didn’t rule out being available against Orlando, saying “I will come back when I’m 100%. It’s not a thing that I should force now and maybe backfire. I’ll take my time, but if I feel 100%, I might be back Sunday.”
Porzingis is averaging 25.8 points in 19 games.
The Knicks may also be without rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, who missed Wednesday’s game with a sprained left ankle. He was limited in Saturday’s practice and is also listed as questionable.
The Knicks are 0-2 without Porzingis, losing road games against Orlando and Houston. Michael Beasley started both games for Porzingis and will likely get the call on Sunday even though Hornacek says he is also considering Lance Thomas.
Beasley is the better offensive player; he scored 30 points against the Rockets last week. Thomas is the better defensive option especially against Aaron Gordon, who scored 29 points in Friday’s loss to Golden State.
The Magic got off to a good start but have since lost 10 of their last 11 games. On Friday, Golden State recorded 46 assists and scored 133 points.
“We’re not tough enough at the defensive end,” said Magic coach Frank Vogel. “We could be tougher, more alert, more physical, compete more… we just got to play tougher than that to beat the champs.”