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Enes Kanter downplays big game in losing outcome

The center has 31 points and 22 rebounds but says ‘who cares?’ if it doesn’t help put the Knicks in the playoffs.

Enes Kanter of the Knicks is guarded by

Enes Kanter of the Knicks is guarded by Amir Johnson of the 76ers during Christmas Day game at Madison Square Garden on Mon. Dec. 25, 2016 Credit: Errol Anderson

Fair warning: If you texted Enes Kanter on Monday to tell him what a great job he did, there is a very high likelihood that he didn’t and won’t get back to you. Don’t be offended. He’s a bottom-line kind of guy.

“People are texting my phone and saying congrats and whatever,” the Knicks center said after what likely was the best overall game of his career. “I’m probably not going to text most of them back because who cares if I get 50 points, 50 rebounds? The state, the whole New York State, they want to see the playoffs. If my numbers are not going to put us in the playoff spot, [it doesn’t matter].”

That may seem extreme, but that attitude is what makes Kanter so popular among Knicks fans. He faced one of the best centers in the NBA in Joel Embiid, and although Embiid had a good game, Kanter looked like the superior player. He had 31 points, two shy of his career high, and matched his career high with 22 rebounds in a team-high 35:58 in a 105-98 loss to the 76ers. Half of his rebounds were on the offensive boards, to boot.

Kanter is only the fourth player to have at least 30 points and at least 20 rebounds in an NBA Christmas Day game (the tradition began in 1947), according to Elias Sports Bureau. The other three are Hall of Famers Bob Lanier, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, who did it three times.

The last player to have a 20-20 game on Christmas Day also was a Hall of Famer, Moses Malone, then with Washington, in 1986 against the 76ers.

The Knicks haven’t seen numbers like those since the Patrick Ewing era.

“Enes is always intense and active,” coach Jeff Hornacek said, adding that he looks fully recovered from the bad back that had hobbled him. “He’s springy on his feet and quick to jump. A lot of times, we want the ball to drop below the rim and jump and get it, and he jumps ahead of it. He was a man on a mission getting those boards.”

Kanter has quickly become a fan favorite in his first year on the team — jawing with LeBron James after James went after rookie Frank Ntilikina, showing how team-oriented he is and generally being a spark on and off the court.

“Enes had an amazing game,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “He’s so physical down there. Everybody knows he’s a great offensive rebounder. He does it every game and he plays hard and he does the dirty work a lot of the time for us, and a lot of times, when we’re shooting from the outside, we’re glad we have a rebound guy in Enes who can clean that up. He did what he could for the team. I know he’s a guy that you can trust 100 percent that he’s going to give his all. I enjoy playing with Enes a lot.”

Got that straight? Enes Kanter: good rebounder, good teammate, terrible texter. The Knicks will take it.

O’Quinn OK. After missing practice Sunday with an illness, Kyle O’Quinn was given the OK to play. O’Quinn, who also was dealing with a calf strain, had four points and three rebounds.

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