GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Kristaps Porzingis moved well during the end of practice Wednesday. He hit a couple of shots, ran out to close on a shooter and emphatically swatted a shot inside.
These were good signs for Porzingis returning for Thursday’s matchup with the Celtics at Madison Square Garden after missing the past two games with a sore left knee.
“The knee is pretty much 100 percent,” Porzingis said. “I don’t see why I would not play tomorrow.”
There is a caveat, though. Porzingis has to go through shootaround Thursday morning and check with the Knicks’ medical staff before he is cleared to play.
“I’m going to have to be smart about it and talk to the doctors and have their permission first,” he said.
Porzingis, who injured his knee in last Thursday’s win over the Nets, felt “a pinch” during workouts before the two games he missed. So the doctors decided to keep him out. He said the pinch is still there, but he doesn’t think it’s major enough to keep him out.
“I still feel it just a bit,” Porzingis said. “This kind of injury I’m going to feel it for a little bit. It’s nothing bad. I just got to make sure the knee’s stable and I’m feeling stable on the court. I can’t have an instability sensation. That’s not good.
“I went through the whole practice. They were trying to take me out. I wanted to stay in. I felt great. The knee felt stable.”
Porzingis has missed six games with ankle, elbow and knee issues. The Knicks (16-14) are 1-5 without him. They were beaten by 18 Monday night in Charlotte.
The Knicks won’t be at full strength regardless when they face the 26-8 Celtics, who own the East’s best record and road mark (13-4).
Tim Hardaway Jr. remains sidelined with a stress injury in his lower left leg, but getting Porzingis back could be a big boost for the Knicks, who are 14-5 at home. Porzingis wants to play every game, but the opponent has him itching to compete even more in this nationally televised game.
“I want to play,” Porzingis said. “Especially remembering the last game we had against them, we want to go out there and play strong tomorrow and have a good game. I’m excited for tomorrow’s game.”
The Celtics handed the Knicks one of their worst losses of the season, a 21-point beating Oct. 24 in Boston. It dropped the Knicks to 0-3, prompting Jeff Hornacek to replace point guard Ramon Sessions with Jarrett Jack in the starting lineup. The Knicks are 16-11 since then.
“It’s always competitive between us and them,” Porzingis said. “The first game wasn’t competitive. We want to have a better game this time. We’re always better playing at home. It’s going to be fun. They’re a top team. It’s not going to be easy at all.”
Porzingis had his second-lowest scoring game of the season that night — 12 points and 3-for-14 shooting. His lowest output was when he scored four points against the Heat, but he left three minutes into the game after spraining his ankle.
He expects the Celtics to play him physically and mix up their defenses. But he believes the Knicks are a far different team now and will be able to better handle the Celtics.
“We’ve grown a lot,” Porzingis said. “I think we’ve grown a lot and we still have a lot of growing to do. We’re on the right track. Even without Tim, we’re getting better. When Tim comes back, I believe he’s going to bring us even more gunpowder offensively. That’s going to make us even better.”