2017-11-29 23:05:03
Knicks 115, Heat 86: Kristaps Porzingis Exits With Injury, but Knicks Roll to Win

23:05, November 29 315 0

The Knicks seemed to hold their collective breath Wednesday night when Kristaps Porzingis went down with a scary ankle injury in the first quarter against Miami, but even with their star forward sidelined they went on to demolish the Heat, 115-86.

A young team that has thrived at home and struggled on the road, the Knicks had their energy level questioned by their coach after a tough home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night. But asked to play without their best player for nearly the entire game, they rallied around Enes Kanter at Madison Square Garden and romped to an easy win.

Kanter, who was returning from a three-game injury absence, had 22 points and 14 rebounds, continually outfighting a Heat frontcourt that struggled without the injured Hassan Whiteside. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 12 points for the Knicks, including a buzzer beater at the end of the first half that he punctuated with an enthusiastic shimmy, and Courtney Lee scored 17.

The strong performance by Kanter brought back the crowd’s energy after it was initially silenced following Porzingis’s injury. Kanter credited the fans at the Garden for the team’s performance.

“Look at this energy in the crowd,” he said in an on-court interview. “We need this every game. If we play like this, nobody can beat us.”

It was the Knicks’ 10th home win of the season and 11th over all, but the result was an afterthought compared to the concern for Porzingis after his hard collision with Justise Winslow of the Heat.

The play came just 2 minutes and 30 seconds into the game. As Porzingis reached out to try to keep a loose ball from going out of bounds in the corner, Winslow crashed into his chest and stepped onto the Knicks forward’s right foot, which awkwardly turned at the ankle.

Porzingis stayed on the ground as the action moved up court and required assistance from teammates to stand up following a timeout. He was then helped back to the locker room by members of the team’s training staff, with the crowd becoming eerily quiet as they awaited news on the 22-year-old.

“It snapped bad,” Porzingis said after the game. “I felt it right in that moment, but I didn’t want to show any emotions.”

Early in the second quarter the Knicks announced that the results of an X-ray were negative. Porzingis was officially cleared to return, and reportedly worked on an exercise bike to loosen up his leg. But in the third quarter, with the Knicks up by a wide margin, the team announced that he would not return.

At his postgame news conference, Coach Jeff Hornacek said that Porzingis had wanted to return but that the team decided to be patient since they have three days off before playing the Orlando Magic on Sunday. Hornacek seemed unconcerned by the injury.

“It didn’t look pretty,” he said. “But he’s a tough kid.”

That the Knicks, who were playing without Frank Ntilikina, so thoroughly dismantled the Heat even after Porzingis’ departure was a sign that Hornacek’s harsh words after the loss to Portland on Monday had resonated with his team.

“We’re not the team that can just come out there and think we’re just going to play and try to step it up later,” he told reporters on Monday. “We’ve got to do it from the tip-off.”

On Wednesday they did just as their coach asked. They ran up an 11-point lead in the first quarter, built it up to 21 by the end of the second quarter, 24 by the end of the third, and to 29 at the final buzzer. They connected on 60.3 percent of their shots, outrebounded Miami 52 to 31, and dished out 26 assists after their passing had fallen apart in the loss to Portland.

The game was a return to form for the Knicks, who became the first team in the N.B.A. to reach 10 home wins this season. Coming into the game they had the N.B.A.’s eighth most efficient offense at home, but had a rank of 28th for road games, which helped explain their 1-6 record away from the Garden.

If there was a clear difference for the team, it was Kanter, who did not appear hampered by the back spasms that he had said were the worst of his career. He played just 25 minutes, but he energized the crowd by fighting for rebounds and scoring at will against the Heat’s backup center, Bam Adebayo.

Going forward, all eyes will be on Porzingis. He has dealt with a lingering elbow injury and various other nagging health issues in his three-year professional career, but he has played in 19 of the Knicks’ 21 games, and entering Wednesday’s contest he was averaging a career-high 33.1 minutes a game.