The Knicks fell back to .500 with a thud in a nearly wire-to-wire 103-91 loss to the Trail Blazers at the Garden on Monday night.
After a pair of road defeats, the Knicks (10-10) were home and had Kristaps Porzingis back, too, after the big fella missed the last game with a sore back.
The Knicks didn’t have center Enes Kanter, who missed his third straight game with back spasms. And they didn’t have much in the way of demonstrable defense, sustainable offense or pep in their step until a furious, failed fourth-quarter comeback attempt in dropping their third in a row.
“That game was low energy from our guys, I thought,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “I thought in the fourth quarter that group of guys that was out there, they just picked guys up and got after it.”
The Knicks had been living off home cooking, with a Garden record of 9-3 going in. They came back from double-digit deficits in six of those victories, but that was not the case this time.
The Knicks’ last lead was 20-19 with 3:34 left in the first quarter. They trailed by 16 at halftime and by 26 entering the fourth, which was Portland’s largest lead of the night.
The raucous atmosphere of most of this season’s home games was absent — as was any sort of gusto from the home team — until the final quarter. The Knicks scored the first 14 points of the fourth to climb to within 90-78 before Portland’s Noah Vonleh hit a free throw with 5:31 to go.
The Knicks still were within shouting distance, but Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a pair of free throws and Willy Hernangomez missed a point-blank putback attempt after the second one.
Michael Beasley then got into a shoving and stare-down match with Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic under the Blazers’ basket. Beasley was called for a personal foul and he and Frank Ntilikina were whistled for technical fouls after Ntilikina stepped into the fracas and shoved Nurkic. The Blazers hit three of four free throws to quell the Knicks’ momentum and go back up by 16 at 94-78.
“I didn’t see really what happened,” Hornacek said. “Unfortunate for us . . . At least the guys were playing hard and getting after it.”
From there, the Knicks twice got as close as eight points. That and $2.75 will get you on the subway, though.
“When there’s no energy, it’s just the crowd is dead,” Kanter said. “You’re dead, you look at the bench and everybody’s put their heads down . . . I told — I’m not going to tell who — ‘Hey, man, go out there and fight with somebody so we get the energy up. I’m serious . . . Get a technical foul. I’ll pay for the fine.’ I don’t care.”
Porzingis finished with 22 points as the Knicks shot just 39.8 percent. Porzingis was one of only three Knicks to score in double figures along with Hardaway (16) and Courtney Lee (14).
Damian Lillard had 32 points for Portland (13-8).
The Knicks have been above .500 since they got to 5-4 with a victory on Nov. 5.
Hornacek used 11 players in the first half, but none of them was Beasley, who started in place of Porzingis on Saturday night and scored 30 points in a loss at Houston.
Beasley did finally bring some energy and scoring (seven points and seven rebounds in 14:23), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Knicks’ first three quarters.
“It’s not easy to go out there 82 games a year,” Hornacek said. “It’s not like we have guys who can just cruise out there and get us 25 [points]. We have to play hard and play together to do it. Just had a bad game.”