ORLANDO, Fla. — The Knicks are not playing like a team that wants a better draft pick and Jeff Hornacek isn’t coaching them that way.
The playoffs may be a long shot, but the Knicks are approaching these games as if they have a chance.
The Knicks got Kristaps Porzingis back from a sprained ankle, Derrick Rose was on the attack from the beginning and they dominated the Magic for most of the game in a 101-90 win Wednesday night at Amway Center.
“We’re still playing for something,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We’re not just going out there just to be playing basketball. We have the mindset of still trying to make something happen.”
The Knicks (25-36) played hard defensively and Hornacek was animated throughout the game. He got on several players, including Porzingis, when he wasn’t happy with them.
But Porzingis, who missed the previous two games with a sprained right ankle, had a solid game. He started at center and led the Knicks with 20 points and nine rebounds. Rose scored 19 and Anthony had 17.
The Knicks (25-36) are four games out of the East’s last playoff spot with 21 games to play. They have won two of three, and the one loss was in the closing seconds to Toronto. The Knicks, who held the Magic (22-39) to 39 points in the second half, have an opportunity to at least make it interesting.
They’re in Philadelphia Friday, so they have a shot at their first two-game winning streak since Dec. 20 and 22. If the Knicks are going to make a playoff push they have to take advantage of a relatively soft schedule.
After they play the Warriors Sunday, the Knicks play five of their following six against teams that are below .500, including two games against the Nets and another against the Magic.
“I haven’t heard anything from any guy that doesn’t still believe we can make the playoffs,” Porzingis said. “It’s very tough but mathematically we have a chance. Until we don’t have a chance, we’re not going to just give up. We got to keep fighting.
“We got to give everything we have at this point. There’s no looking back now.”
The Knicks led by double digits in each quarter, and were up 79-67 to open the fourth. They only made one field goal in the first 5:07, but still maintained a cushion.
When Anthony knocked down just the Knicks’ second field goal with 6:53 left in the fourth, they went up 84-73. The Magic never got the deficit under nine in the fourth.
Evan Fournier’s 22 points led Orlando.
“Guys really picked it up defensively,” Hornacek said.
The Knicks have fallen well below expectations, especially their own. Rose called them a “super team” over the summer.
“Coming into the season I had extremely high expectations for this team,” Rose said. “The reality is that it’s not that. I can’t get mad at it. If anything it’s a learning experience and I just have to learn from it.”
Rose, a free agent this summer, continues to say he wants to remain with the Knicks. But that might not be the plan.
The Knicks tried to move Rose before last week’s trade deadline for Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio. They could try and use Rose in a sign-and-trade for another point guard this summer.
They’re also re-emphasizing the triangle — a system Rose doesn’t like or is comfortable playing. Hornacek said the Knicks will evaluate players on if they fit the triangle.
Rose also wants to play on a team that has a chance to contend. Unless the Knicks have a strong finish to this season, they will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Rose said being on a winning team would weigh into his decision.
“You have to think about all that in the offseason,” Rose said. “I’ll be a free agent and sitting down at the table that’s something that we’ll have to talk about. I really can’t think about it or see how that’s going to go while I’m still playing here.”
Rose missed the playoffs last season with Chicago for the first time in his eight-year career. But this would be his first time his team finishes below .500 if the Knicks don’t go 16-5 the remainder of the season.
“Of course, when you’ve been winning all your life, like I’ve been winning ever since I was in grammar school, to have your first losing season in the NBA is hard,” Rose said. “So you got to find ways around it.
“You can’t control what’s out of your hands and circumstances that are out of your control. My work ethic, that’s the only thing I can control — coming in every day, being a professional.”