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  • Knicks Dodge Early Porzingis Injury Scare to Break Three-Game Skid in Dismantling of Whiteside-less Miami Heat

Knicks Dodge Early Porzingis Injury Scare to Break Three-Game Skid in Dismantling of Whiteside-less Miami Heat

After Kristaps Porzingis went down with an ankle injury, Enes Kanter led the Knicks to a rout of the Miami Heat in front of a nervous home crowd patiently waiting for good news.

No Porzingis, no problem?

The Knicks came out with pep Wednesday night, clearly motivated to shed the stink of a three-game losing streak and rebound from a lousy home effort on Monday. Luckily, they drew a tired and short-handed Miami squad on the second night of a back-to-back and finishing up a four-game road trip. It all amounted to a 115-86 Knicks victory—their largest margin of victory on the season—snapping both their recent skid and Miami’s dominant six-game winning streak at the Garden.

But with 9:30 left in the first quarter, this game—along with the ankle of the Knicks franchise player—experienced a major twist, and its only dose of drama.

Fresh off knocking down the first two shots of the game, Porzingis and his Unicorn-soled kicks stepped on Justise Winslow’s foot while chasing after a rebound in the corner. He gruesomely rolled his ankle, ignited audible gasps from the Garden crowd before a concerned and prolonged silence followed suit.

Fortunately, a quarter later, reports came in that Porzingis would (shockingly) be available to return, despite the sprained ankle diagnosis. Porzingis has undoubtedly been one of the most valuable players in basketball, even if his efficiency has fallen off a bit. He entered Wednesday fourth in the league in scoring (27.0 points per game) and with more blocks than anyone else in basketball (40).

However, Jeff Hornacek wasn’t forced to even consider putting the 7’3″ franchise centerpiece back out there on a gingerly ankle. The young Knicks encouragingly stepped up to the test, largely sparked by the inspired effort of Enes Kanter, whose “fightwas sorely missed during the three-game slide. His relentless work on the offensive glass helped re-energize the arena after KP’s deflating injury. Kanter excelled in the absence of the Heat’s own seven-foot rim protector, Hassan Whiteside (averaging nearly 13 boards and two blocks per game), and shook off the rust to the tune of 22 points (7-of-9 from the field) and 14 rebounds (six on the offensive glass). Overall, the Knicks trounced Miami on the boards, 52-31.

Led by Kanter, the Knicks appropriately stuck to a balanced offensive attack. Their ball movement and off-ball activity was constant, producing quality looks and high-efficiency shooting. They assisted on 26 of their 44 baskets, and shot 60.3 percent on the night, including 65 points in the first half, punctuated by a Shimmy Hardaway Jr. buzzer-beater:

The Knicks’ proficiency at the foul line (22-of-26) helped make up for just five made threes, buoyed by contributions from Ramon Sessions (eight points, six assists), Courtney Lee (17 points on 5-of-9), and Hardaway Jr. (12 points). The game was never in doubt in the second half, allowing McBuckets and Willy to get in on the action:

On the downside, the Knicks committed 21 more turnovers; they’re averaging 18.0 over their last four outings.

The most essential component of the win, though, was the Knicks spirited defensive effort, even without lead-thief Frank Ntilikina—assisted by the very un-hot Miami. The Knicks came in ranked 25th in three-point defense and offered up plenty of open looks, but the Heat—who rank fifth in total three-point—attempts, failed to capitalize. They went just 10-for-38 from downtown and shot just 38.1 percent overall from the field. Whiteside’s absence clearly confined their offense to the perimeter and prevented them from properly taking advantage of Porzingis’s exit.

For Miami, Kelly Olynyk led the way with 18 points, while Goran Dragic went for just six points on 3-for-12 from the floor.

Obviously, the main storyline to emerge from this one-sided affair is the health of Porzingis, although the uplifting reports should quell some nerves. Regardless, the Knicks should be encouraged by their disciplined and engaged defensive effort, and the offense’s ability to carry the load—in a balanced fashion—without their star.

Next up: the Knicks have ample time to recover from Wednesday’s blowout with their next game coming at home against Aaron Gordon and the Orlando Magic.

Staff Writer

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