DENVER — Kristaps Porzingis returned after a one-game injury absence, but not for long. Dogged by foul trouble, he was limited to 27 minutes and fouled out with 4:49 remaining in the fourth quarter as the Knicks fell to the Nuggets, 130-118, on Thursday night.
It was the Knicks’ 10th straight loss in Denver and dropped them to 6-19 on the road. They allowed the Nuggets to shoot 60 percent from the field (48-for-80) and 50 percent from three-point range (14-for-28), allowed a season high in points and have given up 380 points in their last three games.
Porzingis, who missed Tuesday night’s loss at Golden State with left knee irritation, picked up his fifth foul with 5:13 to go in the third quarter and the Knicks down 10. He did not return until 9:54 remained in the fourth with the Knicks trailing by 17.
Porzingis sparked the Knicks to a 9-0 run, but they fell to 2-4 on their seven-game road trip, which ends Friday in Phoenix.
“Close calls,” Porzingis said. “I don’t know. I’ll have to look at the film. I didn’t want to overreact, but in my eyes, I don’t think I did anything that bad, especially late in the fourth, when they usually don’t call a lot of stuff. I don’t know . . . But there’s no time for us to find excuses, put it on the refs or whatever.”
Porzingis and Michael Beasley each had 21 points for the Knicks (21-28). Enes Kanter scored 20 and third-string point guard Trey Burke added 18 points and 11 assists. Gary Harris had 23 points and Trey Lyles scored 21 off the bench for the Nuggets (25-23). Nikola Jokic had 18 points and 10 assists.
The Knicks were without Tim Hardaway Jr., who was rested in the first game of the back-to-back as he continues to build up after missing 20 games with a stress injury in his lower left leg.
Ron Baker was coach Jeff Hornacek’s surprise pick to start in Hardaway’s place. He went scoreless in 11 minutes.
Hornacek used 10 players in the first quarter alone, perhaps as a nod to the game on Friday or Denver’s thin air or the fact that the Nuggets were crushing the Knicks in the paint. Twenty of Denver’s 39 first-quarter points came inside. The Nuggets led 39-28 after one and by as much as 18 in the second quarter before taking a 73-60 halftime lead.
“The start of the game — it was too easy,” Hornacek said. “We only had one foul. They had already scored 34 points. We only had one foul. That’s a sign of the aggressiveness defensively. You can’t go out there and think you’re going to trade baskets. I don’t think they took probably 10, 15 tough shots all night.”
The Knicks got within 99-92 entering the fourth, but Denver scored the first 10 points of the quarter to go up by 17.
Before the game, Porzingis found out that he had been “drafted” by LeBron James for Team LeBron for the NBA All-Star Game.
James and Stephen Curry — as the leading vote-getters in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, respectively — held a “draft” to build the rosters for the Feb. 18 All-Star Game at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
James picked Kevin Durant (Curry’s Golden State teammate), DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans), Anthony Davis (New Orleans) and former Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving to start alongside him.
Curry will start with Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia) and James Harden (Houston).
After the game, Porzingis was joking with a group of reporters about being selected by James. Asked if he had spoken to James, Porzingis said: “I say hi before the game.”
Across the room, Hardaway yelled at the group to stop laughing. “Ain’t no [expletive] funny in here,” he said. “I don’t know why people are laughing. We lost.”