Kanter helps Knicks survive Porzingis injury vs. Heat
NEW YORK — Kristaps Porzingis went down in a heap and the collective heart rates of the Madison Square Garden faithful went up.
The New York Knicks big man and the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer, Porzingis suffered an ankle sprain mere minutes into the team’s 115-86 win over the visiting Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
Scrambling for a loose ball with Miami’s Justice Winslow, Porzingis had his right foot stepped on by Winslow and he crumpled to the floor, remaining down for several minutes before being taken to the locker room by Knicks trainers. New York later announced that X-rays on Porzingis’ ankle were negative and that he was able to return.
By then, the Knicks were already up big, and with one of their premier post presences already playing so well, they saw no need to put him back in the game.
“After it happened, I was warming up,” Porzingis said after New York stopped a three-game losing streak. “My adrenaline was high, I wasn’t feeling it as much. I was actually pretty close to coming back in. We were going to re-evaluate at halftime and at halftime, the doctor recommended to stay out and we made the decision that I should not go back out there.
Enes Kanter, who missed the previous three games with back spasms, did his best to make the crowd forget all about their star player, as if they could. New York went 0-3 in his absence and Kanter had 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Courtney Lee added 17 points for the Knicks, who turned to their bench for much of the night after leading by as much as 30 points. New York’s reserves finished with 58 points on 24 of 39 shooting.
Kanter had six of his rebounds on the offensive end and the Knicks out-rebounded the Heat, 52-31.
“His energy was great,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He runs the floor so that opens things up. A lot of times, it gets guys screwed up in transition because they have to hold them up a bit and that opens up the wings.”
Kanter, who was sidelined for New York’s previous three games with back spasms, had 18 points and 13 rebounds in the first half as the Knicks dominated the first two quarters. New York outscored Miami 33-22 in the first quarter and 32-22 in the second, including a buzzer-beating, jump-catch-and-shoot by Hardaway that gave the Knicks their biggest lead of the game to that point.
New York went on to lead by as much as 30 in the third quarter as it bounced back from one of its worst offensive performances of the month, a 103-91 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.
On Wednesday, the Knicks shot a season-high 60.3 (44-of-73) from the field and 22 of 26 from the free-throw line.
“That’s not the typical Heat team,” Hornacek said. “They are coming off a back-to-back. That’s why you don’t want to give them any life in the second half. They’re strong with their energy, but if you let a 20-point lead down to 10 then you give them that energy. I was happy our guys kept their foot on the gas and were able to keep the lead big.”
Miami (10-11) lost its second straight after winning three straight for the first time this season, falling to 2-2 on its current road trip. With Hassan Whiteside sidelined with knee pain, the Heat got excellent production from their reserves, who totaled 43 points, but the team’s five starters finished with a combined plus-minus ratio of negative-101.
“Energy and defense,” said Miami’s leading scorer Goran Dragic, who was held to just six points. “The last three games, we couldn’t stop anybody. I feel like they’re playing five-on-zero and they can score at will. That hurt us. Of course, you won’t have any confidence, you can’t make a shot, but the most disturbing thing is defense and second-chance points.”
NOTES: In addition to his ankle injury sustained on Wednesday, Knicks PF Kristaps Porzingis has battled back and elbow injuries throughout the season. ... Heat C Hassan Whiteside, who missed the game, indicated to reporters before the game that his knee injury may be more serious than initially thought. ... New York has a four-day layoff before hosting the Orlando Magic on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. ... Miami returns from a four-game road trip on Friday with a home game against the Charlotte Hornets.