The final 15 minutes or so of the Knicks’ victory over the Kings on Saturday night was the “garbage time’’ at the end of a blowout. And while no one had more to do with making it so than Kristaps Porzingis, this was no solo performance.
In what coach Jeff Hornacek called a “perfect” outing, Courtney Lee had a season-high 20 points, including five three-pointers in six attempts. Enes Kanter had 17 points and 13 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
Lee had 10 of his points in the final six minutes of the second quarter, when the Knicks pulled away for a 64-49 halftime lead. Kanter had 11 points and seven rebounds in the third quarter as the Knicks outscored Sacramento 26-17 and put the outcome out of reach.
Since his arrival with the Knicks before last season, Hornacek has almost pleaded with the defense-minded Lee to shoot more. Some of that may be getting through, though the newly installed offense for this season — replete with a lot of ball movement — might play more to Lee’s strengths.
“It’s an equal-opportunity offense,” Lee said. “It was one of those games where it was my turn to make shots.”
“He can shoot the ball. We’ve been on him ever since he got here about taking more. He passes up some shots that I believe as a scorer/shooter you would take,” Hornacek said. “Then he has games like tonight — that was perfect. He shot all the shots he was supposed to. He didn’t need to be wide open because he’s a great shooter; he can shoot it with guys in his face . . . Tim [Hardaway Jr.] wasn’t scoring and Courtney picked up that part of it.”
The 6-11 Kanter’s contributions were more than just the points and rebounds. Hornacek said his “energy gets to everybody.”
“He’s a workhorse in there. He’s not the tallest guy. He’s not the most athletic guy. But he goes after it. That sets the tone for our guys,” Hornacek said. “I don’t know if it is demoralizing for the other team. To work to keep him off the boards takes a lot of energy.”
Kanter said the boost he provides comes directly from how much he enjoys playing with a team full of strivers in which “we’re growing together, we trust in each other and everyone is giving 100 percent every time.”
“Every time I play, my job is to be physical and bring energy. [That role] just pumps me up and fires me off,” Kanter said. “I told KP today, ‘Shoot every time with confidence, because I’m going to get to the rebound and you don’t worry about it.’ ”
Said Hornacek: “His physical play definitely permeates to the other guys.”