TORONTO — The Knicks already were facing a daunting task with Carmelo Anthony sitting out with knee soreness against the Eastern Conference’s second-best team. Then word came down that Kristaps Porzingis was too sick to play.
An upper respiratory illness kept him in the locker room as he missed a game for the first time in his NBA career. The Knicks already have proved they can’t win without Anthony. Without Anthony and Porzingis, they needed to play nearly perfect basketball to beat the Raptors, and that didn’t happen.
The Knicks hung around but never really threatened, and the Raptors handed them their fourth straight loss, 103-93, on Thursday night at Air Canada Centre. It was Toronto’s franchise-record 10th consecutive win.
The Knicks actually were without three-fifths of their starting lineup, as Jose Calderon (sore right groin) also was unavailable. Scoring was an issue. They needed multiple players to lift their games, and that didn’t happen, either.
“We were going to have to essentially play a perfect game,” Arron Afflalo said. “Our defense just wasn’t there when we needed the stops.”
Afflalo scored 20 points and Jerian Grant and Sasha Vujacic had 13 each for the Knicks (22-26). Backup forward Derrick Williams has been a reliable scorer, but he shot 3-for-12 and had six points.
Toronto’s All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points each. Lowry, playing with a sore left wrist, also had 10 assists and six rebounds. Jonas Valanciunas added 11 points and 18 rebounds for the Raptors (31-15).
The Knicks fell to 0-6 without Anthony. He hopes to play Friday night against Phoenix, but Porzingis’ status is unknown. He didn’t seem under the weather at the morning shootaround. When Derek Fisher was asked if he was ill at that point, he snapped, “That’s irrelevant.”
Fisher said Porzingis worked out before the game and couldn’t go. The Knicks announced he was out about 45 minutes before tipoff. He left the locker room after the game without speaking to the media.
“He wasn’t fine,” Fisher said. “He didn’t feel well enough to play.”
This was the second straight game Anthony missed because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. He said he hasn’t undergone an MRIs or any other tests and isn’t concerned that it’s anything major. “I’m very confident that this is nothing but some fatigue, a little soreness, some general soreness, probably just an overload of work,” he said. “I feel much better.”
Trailing by 14 in the second quarter, the Knicks closed within 58-57 with 6:39 left in the third but made one field goal in the next 5:53. The Raptors outscored the Knicks 15-3 in that span and opened a 73-60 lead.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Knicks cut it to eight twice, but each time Lowry answered with a basket. After Vujacic’s three-pointer made it 94-86, Lowry knocked down another three with 1:45 to go.
“We fought hard but we could have been better,” Fisher said. “We could have won this game.”
Porzingis was in good spirits in the morning. He talked about being selected for the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend in Toronto and his bigger dream: He believes he will be an All-Star.
When the NBA announced the All-Star reserves Thursday night, it wasn’t surprising that the coaches didn’t pick Porzingis. But if he can stay healthy and continues to develop and improve, his dream could become a reality — maybe next year.
“I’ll keep working and one day I’ll be there,” he said. “That’s one of the things I want to achieve individually, but that will come with team success as well. I just want to grow as a player.”
Porzingis will play for the World Team against the U.S. in the Feb. 12 exhibition game featuring the top rookies and second-year players, but it appears he won’t be involved in Saturday night’s activities. He has been playing through shoulder, foot and finger ailments and needs to rest.
“That’s a dream come true to be a part of All-Star Weekend,” he said. “My big dream is to be in the All-Star Game one day, but this is one step closer to that, and I’m just real excited for the weekend.”