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Kristaps Porzingis eyes return as Knicks rally, but lose

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis, center,

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis, center, and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony react on the bench during the first half against the Indiana Pacers in an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, April 3, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Kristaps Porzingis exceeded all expectations that anyone not named Kristaps Porzingis had for the Knicks rookie, but that doesn’t mean he accomplished everything he wanted.

“No, because the goal was to make it to the playoffs, and we didn’t do that,” he said. “So from that perspective, that’s not what I wanted to achieve. But it was a really good season for me to learn and see how it works.”

The Knicks believe they have found a future franchise player and want to protect him. But he doesn’t want the season to end with him on the bench because of an injury.

Porzingis missed Sunday night’s 92-87 loss to the Pacers at the Garden because of a strained right shoulder. He still hasn’t attempted to shoot, but he thinks and hopes he can return for the final “two, three games.”

The Knicks (31-47) also were without Carmelo Anthony (rest), Jose Calderon (thigh bruise) and Lance Thomas (sprained left MCL) Sunday night, but they still had a chance to beat the Pacers. They erased an 18-point third-quarter deficit and went ahead 87-85 with 1:18 left but didn’t score again.

Paul George, playing with a sore left ankle, hit a jump shot with 23.6 seconds left to give Indiana an 89-87 lead. After Sasha Vujacic (21 points) missed a three-pointer with 19.5 seconds to play, Monta Ellis’ two free throws made it a four-point game with 17.2 seconds left.

Out of a timeout, Arron Afflalo (15 points) hit a corner three-pointer, but it was waved off because the referees reviewed it and ruled that his foot was out of bounds.

The Knicks have four games left. Playing again won’t change how Porzingis feels about the season, but it’s important to him. “It’s more for myself,” he said. “I just want to be out there on the floor. I just want to compete, I want to play. Whatever the situation is right now, I just love basketball. I want to be on the floor. That’s what matters the most to me. I really want to come back and play the last few games.”

Porzingis, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, is averaging 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.86 blocks. Even if he doesn’t play another game, he’s a lock to make the All-Rookie first team and likely will finish second to Karl-Anthony Towns in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Porzingis hurt his shoulder while blocking a dunk attempt by the Pelicans’ Alonzo Gee last week. He couldn’t lift his right arm over his head two days after that but can do it now, so he’s making progress. The Knicks’ medical staff will decide whether he can return.

“I know I have to be smart about this,” he said. “There’s nothing really that I’m going to achieve by going out there the last few games, but I think I’ll be back for the last two, three games, hopefully. But it’s not my decision at the end of the day.”

Anthony went to interim coach Kurt Rambis and said this would be a good game to sit out to get a stretch of days off. The Knicks’ next game is Wednesday. Rambis said he expects Anthony’s absence to be “a one-game thing.”

Calderon, who got off crutches yesterday, sounded doubtful about returning this season. Regarding Thomas, Rambis said he doesn’t “anticipate him being back” but noted that the Knicks would like to re-sign the impending free agent. “He’s a huge asset for us,” Rambis said. “He plays so hard on a lot of levels, he almost embarrasses other guys if they’re not playing as hard as he does.”

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