TORONTO — Jeff Hornacek appeared to lower expectations before Friday night’s game against the Raptors. It may have been the coach’s best move of the night.
Yes, the Knicks have gotten the Garden pumping, Kristaps Porzingis has turned into a megastar and the team is above .500.
But Hornacek threw some cold water on Knicks fans’ daydreaming when he was asked about the team’s fast start.
“You go into every season at the beginning with high hopes,” he said. “[Playoffs] wasn’t what we were focusing on. We were focusing on trying to lay a foundation, lay a base that we can grow over the next two, three years to get to be a good team.”
He didn’t say “like the Raptors,” but he could have. Toronto showed how far the Knicks still have to go with a 107-84 shellacking at Air Canada Centre.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan each had 22 points for the Raptors (10-5), who have won eight in row against the Knicks and visit the Garden on Wednesday.
They’re both in the NBA, but the Knicks were not in the same league as the Raptors from start to finish. The Knicks led once in the game, when Jarrett Jack hit a pull-up jumper to make it 4-2.
Porzingis has slowed down since averaging 30 points in the first 10 games. He didn’t score his first points until a three-pointer with 5:10 left in the second quarter as the Knicks (8-7) fell to 1-4 on the road.
“I think we were a little too stagnant offensively early on,” Porzingis said. “We were kind of waiting: ‘Now it’s my turn. Now it’s my turn.’ We weren’t playing our basketball.”
Porzingis, who was averaging 28.9 points per game, finished with 13 and shot 3-for-13. He still tied Tim Hardaway Jr. for the team scoring lead.
Hardaway left the game in the third quarter with a sore left foot. X-rays were negative. Courtney Lee, who tweaked his left hamstring in the previous game, shot 1-for-9 and had three points.
The Knicks fell behind by double digits in the first quarter and trailed by 18 at the half. Lowlights included Hardaway clanging a righthanded dunk attempt off the rim, Porzingis missing his first six shots and Frank Ntilikina fouling C.J. Miles on a three-point attempt with 2.2 seconds to go in the first quarter. Miles hit all three foul shots to give Toronto a 30-18 lead after one, and the Raptors went up by 20 for the first time on Lowry’s three-pointer with 1:32 left in the half.
It was 78-64 entering the fourth quarter. Hornacek tapped Michael Beasley for his first appearance in three games and the former No. 2 overall pick scored on a putback with 9:46 to go to make it 80-70. But with a chance to cut the lead to single digits for the first time since the first quarter, Beasley (10 points) stepped out of bounds on the baseline for a turnover. The Knicks did not get closer.
Hornacek said that in the days leading up to the game, he did not focus on the challenge of facing the Raptors on the road.
“We don’t talk about that,” he said. “We talk about how we’re going to grow and build from the foundation we’re trying to lay in and do the right things, and then the wins and losses, whatever happens happens. We’re not going into these games saying, ‘Hey, we have to beat this team. They’re one of the top teams in the East.’ We just want to get better and improve through the year, and we’ll get our fair share of wins that way.”