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Joakim Noah to return to starting lineup against Pistons

Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and New

Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) battle for the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) Photo Credit: AP / Nathan Denette

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Jeff Hornacek is going back to his regular first unit Wednesday night against the Pistons, but he joked he couldn’t promise he would start that way in the second half.

Hornacek sat Joakim Noah and turned to a smaller lineup to start the third quarter Monday. It sparked the Knicks’ victory over the Mavericks.

“Jo did nothing wrong,” Hornacek said. “He played great. We went in the second half with that lineup and it happened to work.”

Hornacek slid Kristaps Porzingis to center, Carmelo Anthony to power forward and inserted Justin Holiday to play small forward. The Knicks outscored Dallas 31-12 in the third quarter and won, 93-77.

Teams are playing smaller and quicker now, and the Knicks’ best lineup may be Porzingis at center and Anthony at power forward. But Hornacek said he doesn’t know if that’s a “long-term” answer.

“Can that group play 35 minutes together or are they better off in five-minute stints here and there, depending on the matchups?” Hornacek said. “It’s a long season. It’s another thing we can go to. We have capable centers in Jo and Kyle [O’Quinn] and Willy [Hernangomez]. If we can keep that for certain times, we won’t overuse it.”

Knicks president Phil Jackson gave Noah a four-year, $72-million contract to be their starting center, defensive anchor and a mentor for Porzingis. Noah has looked slow on defense and hasn’t made much of an offensive impact outside of his passing. He’s averaging 4.3 points. 8.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 23.7 minutes.

Still, Hornacek feels more comfortable with Noah against Detroit’s rebounding machine Andre Drummond than Porzingis.

“We don’t want to wear KP out if it’s a Drummond or somebody like that,” Hornacek said. “There’s probably more times we can use it. It’s a weapon we have.

“You never know until you try it. But you think of him going inside and the power — maybe that will take a toll on KP in the long run. We may try it for a few minutes here and there and see.”

Anthony has flourished playing at power forward, but he’d rather do it “in spurts.”

“I always feel comfortable with playing that four position with different lineups out there, when we go small, the advantages we have,” Anthony said. “I wouldn’t want to play the four the whole game.”

New York Sports