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Kristaps Porzingis takes control during crunch time for Knicks

Porzingis doesn’t consider himself to be the “go-to-guy” late, but realizes that he often winds up with ball during final minutes.

Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis speaks after Monday's practice at the MSG Training Center on Monday Jan. 1, 2018.  (Credit: Newsday / Owen O'Brien)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The ball has a way of finding Kristaps Porzingis late in games, as evidenced by his scoring seven of the Knicks’ final nine points in a 105-103 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night. The 7-3 forward, however, deflects talk about his being the “go-to guy.”

“It happens like that a lot of times,” Porzingis said after Monday’s practice as the Knicks prepare to host San Antonio tonight. “A lot of times early in the game and throughout the game, I’m trying to score and trying to root for the team, but I don’t realize at the end, it just happens naturally. The ball comes to me and I’m capable of attacking then, so it’s normal that I’m getting those touches late also. Guys are trusting me and giving me the ball and letting me score.”

Porzingis hit a three-pointer with 1:30 remaining to cut the Pelicans’ lead to two points and followed with an emphatic dunk 28 seconds later to tie the score at 101. He also scored with 38 seconds left and finished with 30 points.

But rather than exploring what the late-game performance could do for himself, Porzingis focused on the importance of a close road victory. The Knicks, who are 3-12 on the road, are set to play 13 of their next 17 games away from home.

“I think now going forward, we’ve got a little experience in those last moments on the road when the whole crowd and everything is against us,” Porzingis said. “And we’re capable of playing cold-blooded and just make the right plays and not force anything.”

The Knicks will play the Spurs for the second time in six days after suffering a 119-107 loss at San Antonio on Thursday night. Porzingis was held to 18 points and 6-for-16 shooting. LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 25 points.

“San Antonio’s a great, high-level team,” said Porzingis, who is averaging 24.5 points per game. “Just the way they play, they execute, the way they play defensively. They do all those things right and that type of team, there are a lot of things I can do better. I know what to expect from that type of team.”

Coach Jeff Hornacek hopes Saturday’s win will help build confidence as the Knicks continue a challenging stretch of the season.

“You hope it does, but 82 games, you’re going to have good wins, bad losses and you can’t let one affect the other,” he said. “Maybe it gives a little confidence late in games on the road . . . This is a tough stretch and they’re going to have to be focused, but San Antonio’s first. You’ve got to deal with them first.”

Notes & quotes: Tim Hardaway Jr., who has been out since Nov. 29 with a stress injury in his lower left leg and has missed the last 15 games, took shots after practice without his protective boot. “It seems like they are building him up a little bit,” Hornacek said. “A little more dribbling, shooting off the dribble and movement, so I think they got a plan for him and it looks like he’s doing a little more today.”

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