Kristaps Porzingis had Madison Square Garden buzzing in the third quarter. The agile 7-3 rookie swooped in, soared to grab a miss by Carmelo Anthony and, in the same motion, threw it down with his right hand over LaMarcus Aldridge.
But late in Monday night's game, the arena went silent after Porzingis was involved in a scary moment following another Anthony miss.
After Anthony fell on the back of the prized rookie's neck, Porzingis stayed down on the floor holding his head. He eventually got up and looked woozy as he gingerly walked off the court and into the locker room.
The Knicks were well on their way to a 94-84 loss to the Spurs, but concern immediately turned to Porzingis. The Knicks said X-rays of his neck were negative and that he has a soft tissue injury. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
"I was just laying on the floor in a lot of pain," Porzingis said. "I couldn't really move my neck at that point. With time, it got a little better. I have some stiffness in my neck. It doesn't feel too good. It's nothing serious. I think it'll be fine soon."
Porzingis was having his best game as a pro. He said he was fired up to play against basketball legends Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Aldridge. It showed as Porzingis registered his first NBA double-double with 13 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks before he was injured with 2:49 to play.
On the fateful play, there was a scramble for the ball and Porzingis got tangled up inside. He already was on the floor when Anthony fell and landed on him.
The Knicks ruled out a concussion, and Porzingis said he felt stiffness and pain in his left side and down his spine. It's hard to foresee him playing Wednesday night in Cleveland. Porzingis looked very uncomfortable when he spoke after the game.
"It's just stiffness, a little pain, but it is getting a little stiffer now," he said. "Doctors saw the X-rays and they checked the neck and said I'll be fine soon . . . I think I'll be back soon."
Anthony said he didn't know he fell on his teammate.
"I know my legs got cut from underneath of me," he said. "I see KP down on the ground after that. I didn't know what was going on. I actually thought it was one of the San Antonio guys who fell and clipped me from behind."
Anthony scored 19 points but had a tough game, shooting 4-for-17. Kawhi Leonard always defends him well and the Spurs load up on him.
The Spurs, meanwhile, played their usual game. They shared the ball, shot 49 percent and had four players in double figures. Aldridge scored 19 points, Leonard had 18 points and 14 rebounds, Duncan added 16 points and 10 rebounds and Parker tallied 16 points.
The Knicks (2-2) shot 36 percent but hung tough, cutting a 13-point third-quarter deficit to 84-79 on Robin Lopez's basket with 7:07 left in the game.
But the Knicks missed their next 11 shots and went more than seven minutes between field goals before Jerian Grant hit a jumper with 5.5 seconds to go.
Despite the outcome, Anthony is optimistic that if the Knicks continue to compete the way they did against the Spurs, they will win their share of games.
"I believe that we're going to be OK," Anthony said. "Four games into the season, we're 2-2 right now, and this is a game that we can learn from. We haven't shot our best and we've still been in it. . . . We're right there. It's just a matter of us putting it together for a whole game and being consistent with that."