Jeff Hornacek wasn’t kidding when he said there would be no minutes restrictions on Derrick Rose Tuesday night.
Rose, who missed four games with back spasms in the past two weeks, logged a very healthy 35 minutes in the Knicks’ 118-111 win over the Pacers. And the Knicks needed every one of them.
Though it took two-plus quarters for the Knicks and Rose to shake off the cobwebs, they pulled together for an impressive come-from-behind win that ended a three-game losing streak. The Knicks (15-13) play better, a whole lot better, when Rose is healthy and on the floor. They find more open shots, they drive to the basket with more authority and they play a meaner brand of defense.
Rose was at his best in the fourth quarter when the Knicks, who trailed by 15 in the third, outscored the Pacers 34-24. Stat-wise, it was one of the finer games of the season for the Knicks’ big three, with Carmelo Anthony leading all scorers with 35 points, Kristaps Porzingis adding 21, and Rose scoring 24 points with six assists.
“I was just trying to get a feel with all of us,” Rose said. “That’s my thing with all of us, I was trying to come in and get them going first.”
Said Porzingis: “D-Rose was doing his thing. That opens up stuff for me. It’s always good when everyone is aggressive, feeling good and comfortable on the court.”
Hornacek said Rose took his game to another level in the fourth quarter after a slow start.
“It’s tough when you are coming off that back injury. I’m sure he was a little tentative,” Hornacek said. “In that fourth quarter, he was making good decisions and reads. We’re glad to have him back.”
They certainly are. The Knicks looked completely different from the team that had just limped through a 2-3 West Coast trip. Rose’s back was an on and off problem that whole trip, and the Knicks are 1-3 overall in games he has not played. They also lost last week at Phoenix when he played only 10 minutes.
Before Tuesday’s game, Hornacek talked about his team’s struggles without Rose in the lineup.
“I thought we were playing pretty decently, and then when Derrick goes down, we miss one of our top three guys, we become a little bit different team,” Hornacek said. “So when Derrick’s out there, we’ve been pretty good in that stretch. But a lot of teams have guys missing and they still win games, so we’ve got to figure that out.”