MIAMI — Tim Hardaway Jr. said he goes to sleep every night thinking about what if. What if he never got hurt and missed six weeks of games with a stress injury in his left leg? What if Kristaps Porzingis hadn’t torn his ACL?
Hardaway believes the Knicks’ season would have gone differently and they would have remained in the playoff race. Instead they were eliminated from contention Monday night for the fifth straight year.
“We were in the playoff picture before the year was over, before 2017 was over,” Hardaway said. “It’s just tough to really think about it. Now we just have to focus on getting better as a ballclub, moving on and looking forward to next season.”
The Knicks were 11-10 when they lost Hardaway, peaked at 17-14, and were 19-22 when he returned on Jan. 12 from a 20-game absence. The Knicks already had begun their swoon, and Hardaway couldn’t save them.
By the time the Knicks lost Porzingis for the season, they were 23-32 and in the middle of a stretch when they lost 17 of 18 games.
Porzingis and Hardaway, the Knicks’ top two scorers, played 27 games together. The Knicks went 14-13 in those games.
“That’s the roller coaster season of the NBA, especially if you have injuries to your main guys,” Jeff Hornacek said. “We got off to a good start, which wasn’t expected. But then Tim got the stress fracture. Then when he came back we had maybe 10 games with the two of them, where Tim was trying to get back into a groove and then KP gets hurt.
“It happens every year. You hope you can stay healthy. But that’s kind of the NBA.”
Lance Thomas missed his second straight game, as he remained away from the team because of a family matter . . . The Heat was without Dwyane Wade (strained hamstring) and Hassan Whiteside (hip pain).