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Knicks look for forward progress in second half

Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks controls

Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks controls the ball in the first half against Thaddeus Young of the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Compared with 2014-15, the Knicks have quadrupled their victory total for the first half of the regular season, a spectacular achievement by any math.

The fact that they nonetheless have a losing record at 20-21 is a reminder of just how spectacularly bad last season was.

But no matter how you look at it, these Knicks have earned the right to begin watching scoreboards and standings as they begin the second half in Memphis on Saturday night.

The Knicks are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, one game out of the final playoff spot and poised for what could be an interesting winter.

Asked after Wednesday night’s 110-104 loss to the Nets if he believes he has a good read on his team, coach Derek Fisher said he does. Sort of. But he made it clear this remains very much a work in progress.

“I mean, I guess for now, but we shouldn’t remain where we are,” he said. “So I think we’re doing a decent job of fighting and clawing out some wins and doing some things in terms of trying to get better.

“But there’s more room to go than I think even we know. We have to keep fighting to take that, to be really intentional about being much better than we are, and if we want to accomplish some goals this year, that’s what we’ll have to do the second half of the season.”

The five games in eight days that begin in Memphis offer a chance to creep above .500. Only one of the upcoming opponents, the Clippers, looks particularly formidable. The others are the Grizzlies, 76ers, Jazz and Hornets, all of whom are in or below the Knicks’ standings neighborhood. After that, things get more complicated. Three of the Knicks’ last four games this month are against the Thunder, Raptors and Warriors.

Assuming Carmelo Anthony quickly returns to health after spraining his right ankle on Tuesday night and Kristaps Porzingis does not hit a rookie wall, the Knicks figure to remain in contention for the duration. At least they believe so.

“We’re still learning,” Porzingis said after scoring 12 points and shooting 5-for-17 in Anthony’s absence Wednesday night. “Through this last two weeks, I think we’ve gotten a lot better mentally . . . We have grown. This was a good game for us to grow and get more experience for me and Jerian Grant] and the young guys.”

Asked if he believes he can handle another 41 regular-season games, Porzingis nodded.

“I’m going day by day, game by game, trying to prepare myself for every game the same way,” he said. “I’m halfway there. Games like this give me more motivation just that now, I can’t wait for the next game, to be back, to be playing the way we need to play and to get another win.”

Another 25 wins should do the trick.

Melo moves up. Anthony has moved ahead of Detroit big man Andre Drummond in the All-Star voting and is third among Eastern Conference frontcourt players. The top three vote-getters start in the Feb. 14 All-Star Game in Toronto.

New York Sports