TORONTO — With the Knicks about 90 minutes away from beginning a tough stretch of four games in five days, coach Jeff Hornacek volunteered a thought that would apply if his team happened to get blown out by the Raptors on Sunday.
“If things aren’t looking good and we can find time to rest guys, then we’ll do that,” he said, “knowing that we have the four games in five nights.”
Silver linings, people!
To be fair, Hornacek later mentioned, “There’s no reason you can’t think you can win all four of them.” He’ll have to change that to “the next three” after the Knicks indeed were blown out by the Raptors, 116-101, at Air Canada Centre.
Trailing 67-54 late in the second quarter, the Knicks were outscored 27-2 in the next 10:33 and wound up scoring eight points in the third quarter. Hornacek emptied his bench with 3:45 left in the quarter and Toronto winning by 34 points. The largest lead for the Raptors, who scored 42 points in the second quarter, was 38.
So Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and the rest were able to get a breather before Monday’s Martin Luther King Day matinee against Atlanta at the Garden.
The Knicks, who reached the season’s halfway point at 18-23, were without Kristaps Porzingis, who missed his second straight game with a sore left Achilles. He hopes to return Monday.
They also lost his replacement, Lance Thomas, less than two minutes into the game. Thomas was elbowed in the head by Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas and did not return. The Knicks announced that he suffered a left orbital fracture and is being evaluated for concussion-like symptoms.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 23 points. Norman Powell had 21 off the bench and DeMarre Carroll scored 20. Kyle Lowry had 16 points and nine assists and Valanciunas added 12 points and 16 rebounds.
Anthony scored 18 points for the Knicks. Justin Holiday had 17 off the bench and Rose added 16. The Knicks outscored the Raptors 39-20 in the fourth quarter to make the final score closer than it really was.
Of the starters, Hornacek said: “We have to start looking at different possibilities with that group. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. We saw the second group come in there and play hard and get after it defensively, and consequently they got stuff on the offense. So we do have the game [Monday], which would be a consideration.”
The Knicks looked as if they didn’t want to compete before Hornacek pulled the starters. The third-quarter sequence was filled with turnovers from the Knicks and fast-break layups from the Raptors. . It was time to switch to Cowboys-Packers.
“They were not thinking defense, they were thinking offense, and their offense wasn’t going,” Hornacek said. “I don’t know if it’s giving up. You can ask them that. But the last group came in there and played hard. That’s what we need.”
Rose implored Hornacek to be more vocal about the Knicks’ defensive shortcomings on Saturday. On Sunday, Rose said he “can’t put a finger on” what’s wrong with the Knicks.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “First time being in this . . . We let them score 69 points in one half. How you expect to win letting a team score 60, 70 points in one half?”
At the end of a miserable day, it was left to Anthony to sum up what many Knicks fans probably are feeling about a team that was expected to compete for a playoff spot but has lost 10 of its last 12.
“It don’t feel like the season’s slipping away,” he said. “But it don’t feel like an average slump, either, because we are much better than what we are putting out there on the court.”