PHOENIX — In Jeff Hornacek’s return to Phoenix, Derrick Rose returned to the trainer’s table, and Kristaps Porzingis showed more anger than he has in his brief Knicks career.
Porzingis pushed Suns rookie Marquese Chriss in the third quarter and had to be restrained by his teammates in what was a very wild game.
The Knicks showed fight, but the Suns fought harder and pulled out a 113-111 overtime victory despite a 34-point night from Porzingis in Hornacek’s first game back in Phoenix since being fired 10 months ago.
It was a disappointing loss for the surging Knicks, who had won 11 of their previous 15 and lost Rose in the first quarter with back spasms. The Suns improved to just 8-17.
The bench helped the Knicks erase a 12-point fourth quarter lead, but Hornacek probably stuck with them too long. The Knicks (14-11) led by six with less than three minutes left in regulation, but they missed five shots and had a turnover the rest of the fourth.
“We had a lot of chances to win the game,” Porzingis said. “We just missed shots, good looks. Missed a couple myself. It all matters”
Of bigger concern is Rose’s health.
He was fouled on his way to the basket in the first quarter, and came down hard on his back. He left the game shortly after making his two foul shots. Those were Rose’s only points.
Rose missed two games with lower-back tightness last week, and he said this felt similar. Rose returned and scored 25 points against the Lakers on Sunday. His status for Thursday’s game at Golden State is unclear.
“Just felt my back getting tight and I couldn’t move,” Rose said. “If anything, I just don’t want to get out of my rhythm. I felt like I’m in a great rhythm right now. For this to be happening, I really can’t explain it. All I can really do is get treatment and go from there.”
Porzingis was having a great game, and tried to carry the Knicks after his dustup with Chriss. He gave the Knicks a 108-105 lead with 1:54 left in overtime, but then fouled out 20 seconds later.
“KP fouled out, which was big for us,” Carmelo Anthony said. “He had it going. We were trying to find it from somewhere else.”
Anthony didn’t have it. He was just 3-for-15 with 13 points. Kyle O’Quinn provided a huge lift off the bench with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Courtney Lee added 14 points.
Eric Bledsoe had 31 points and eight assists for Phoenix. Chriss had 14 points and 12 rebounds. One-time Knick Tyson Chandler, who said he was motivated to face his former team, had a 13-point, 23-rebound performance.
With the Suns leading 113-110 in the final seconds of overtime, Phoenix intentionally fouled O’Quinn with four seconds left.
He made the first but purposely missed the second. Lance Thomas tipped it but the Suns eventually rebounded it. P.J. Tucker was fouled with 1.2 seconds left. He made the first and missed the second on purpose. O’Quinn rebounded but his three-quarter heave was well short.
Earlier in the game, an irate Porzingis pushed Chriss and had to be held back by Joakim Noah with 8:54 left in the first half. Porzingis normally doesn’t show that type of anger. But he and Chriss had gone at each other for a few possessions before things got heated.
Porzingis was running down the court after he contested and affected a Chriss shot, and fell over Bledsoe. Simultaneously, Chris pulled Porzingis down. He jumped up and shoved Chriss in the chest. Knicks security guards immediately ran on the court to make sure things didn’t escalate.
“There was some word exchange before that,” Porzingis said. “I was angry. But as soon as the play was over, as soon as that situation was over, the next thing I was thinking about was making those free throws. That was all that was in my mind.”
After the dust settled and the officials reviewed the play, Porzingis, Brandon Jennings, Chriss and Bledsoe received technicals. Chriss was whistled for a flagrant foul 1. But Anthony was glad to see Porzingis push Chriss.
“He needed to get like that,” Anthony said. “Sometimes people try to take advantage of his kindness. I thought it was getting a little bit too much out there for him. He reacted. We had his back out there.”
Porzingis said: “I don’t really think about it. It’s natural that obviously I’m going to stand up for myself.”
The Suns struck first in the overtime as Chandler scored on a putback. O’Quinn tied it and then Porzingis gave the Knicks a 105-103 lead. Bledsoe tied it with a layup in transition after a Brandon Jennings turnover.
Porzingis put the Knicks on top 108-105 with a three-pointer, but then he fouled out on the Suns’ next possession. He committed his sixth on Devin Booker, who knocked down both free throws to bring the Suns within one.
After O’Quinn missed a jumper in the lane, Bledsoe hit a pull-up baseline jumper to give Phoenix a 109-108 lead with 59.9 seconds remaining. Anthony made a shot to give the Knicks a 110-109 lead. But Bledsoe scored on a scooping layup with 30 seconds to go.
Anthony had another chance to give the Knicks the lead but his jumper hit nothing. O’Quinn rebounded it, but it ended up being a shot-clock violation, giving the Suns the ball back with six seconds left.
The Knicks fouled Booker right away, and he made both free throws with 5.2 seconds left to make it 113-110.
“When KP went out with that sixth foul, he was playing pretty well,” Hornacek said. “It was tough not to have a second scorer out there with Melo.”