Kristaps Porzingis’ shot chart from the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s game shows nothing but one “X” mark. And it’s 58 feet away from the basket.
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Porzingis’ heave from beyond midcourt at the buzzer was his only shot attempt in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ 91-84 loss to Cleveland. He had scored 23 points and hit all four of his three-point attempts through three quarters. Oh, and Carmelo Anthony didn’t play, which figured to create even more opportunities.
But after shooting 8-for-17 in the first three quarters, Porzingis went silent as the Knicks were held to 12 points. After the game, he said he needs to be more aggressive. But was it a matter of the defense taking him out of the game, Porzingis not being assertive enough — or the Knicks not getting him involved?
“I think that’s a collective thing for us,” Derek Fisher said after practice Thursday. “I don’t know if it’s about Kris trying to chase the basketball and get more opportunities. Of course we can try and dictate some of those things by what we run and what we call, which we do. But defenses in late-game situations, they are designed to take things away. That’s why we believe in playing offense in a way that involves all five guys so they can’t key on one guy. I guess it’s a collective thing — myself, Kris and our team.”
Porzingis is averaging 13.3 points, attempting 11.6 field-goal attempts per game and shooting 42.5 percent from the field this season. In his 26 fourth-quarter appearances — excluding three games in which he didn’t play in the fourth and one in which he played for only a few seconds — Porzingis is averaging 3.1 points. He has shot 39.3 percent and averaged 2.5 shots per game in the fourth. Of his 29 three-pointers made on 87 attempts, he has converted only 3 of 17 in the final quarter.
When asked Thursday if he thinks his rookie teammate is hesitant to demand the ball in late-game situations, Anthony said it’s not Porzingis’ personality to “scream for the ball.”
“It’s going to take time for him to kind of figure out how the game is coming at him right now,” Anthony said. “Sometimes the shot’s not falling, so he is trying to figure out other ways how to get involved, how to impact the game, which he is doing defensively, blocking shots, rebounding. But offensively, I think now for him is just more about figuring the game out.”
Seven times this season, Porzingis has played significant minutes in the fourth quarter and been held scoreless. Fisher said the Knicks’ offense, which is predicated on cutting and ball movement, discourages isolation plays. He believes Porzingis’ occasional lack of production in the fourth quarter comes from the pace of play changing with additional stoppages.
“I think where Kris is finding most of his success so far is his points are happening in the flow of the game. It’s not that we are calling things for him,” Fisher said. “Then in the fourth quarter, when the game slows down, those flow points aren’t there. So we’ll keep working at it and try to put him in better situations.”