The date was Dec. 11, 2016.
Kristaps Porzingis had 26 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots as the Knicks improved to 14-10 with a six-point victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
It’s astounding to think that game took place less than two months ago. On Monday night, the teams staged a rematch at the Garden, and the Knicks fell to 22-31 with a 121-107 loss.
Porzingis? His final stats — 16 points, nine rebounds in 32:49 — look OK. But his game is not OK.
The second-year player scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter. The Knicks entered that quarter trailing by 24 points against a team that now is 18-36.
At the start, it wasn’t a game for long. The Knicks fell behind 17-8 and trailed 29-19 when the first quarter ended. At that point, Porzingis was 0-for-5 and had zero points.
He did better in the second quarter: one point. It was that kind of night.
“It started from the beginning,” said Porzingis, who hasn’t had a 20-point game since scoring 24 on Jan. 6 against Milwaukee. “Turnovers. Effort, maybe, in some situations, and it all added up. From the beginning, we just didn’t come out the right way.”
Coach Jeff Hornacek blistered his team in a brief postgame Q&A session. The play of the first unit, of which Porzingis is a part, particularly irked the usually mild-mannered coach.
“We do need to step up,” he said. “A lot of times we’re not starting the game the right way. We’re not playing with the right energy, and it’s on us. We’ve got to step up. We’ve got to do a better job of starting games.”
At least Porzingis did a better job of finishing the game. He hit three of five shots in the fourth quarter, which made his overall shooting numbers of 5-for-14 a bit more palatable. But only a bit.
Early on, he said, he was “just not feeling like involved and not being in rhythm. I have to do a better job of picking the spots where I want to attack and picking the right moment when I need to attack. I think at the end I was just more involved and a lot of times the ball was moving through me and kind of playing a little more movement. I think that’s the type of game I’m better at — faster paced, just moving the ball more around.”
Porzingis, who had been slowed by an Achilles injury and then a stomach bug, said he’s not feeling the effects of either anymore. Now it’s the Knicks’ play — especially Monday night — that’s making him sick.
“It’s just not there,” he said. “It’s kind of everybody for themselves a lot of times on both ends of the floor. I wish I had the answer.”