Kristaps Porzingis was back from his bout with a stomach illness, and was a big part of a unit that made sure the whole team wasn’t feeling sick after last night’s game.
The Knicks couldn’t afford to lose to the NBA-worst Nets. Yet the Knicks were down 10 in the fourth, and Porzingis and a couple of other Euro-Knicks led a 95-90 victory as Carmelo Anthony spent the entire quarter on the bench, cheering on the comeback.
The combination of Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez and seldom-used Sasha Vujacic sparked the win that helped the Knicks avoid what would have been the worst loss in a season littered with them.
“We came out there and we just said we are not going to lose,” Vujacic said. “Everybody stepped up and everybody played with heart and we represented what we represent and I think that the hustle prevailed. We won the game not with tactics but with heart.”
Porzingis, who missed Tuesday’s game because he was vomiting, said he hadn’t eaten for a couple of days. But he had the strength and energy to score 12 of his 19 points in the fourth. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.
“I woke up this morning, and I wasn’t shaking anymore,” Porzingis said. “I tried to prepare myself mentally to push as much as I can out there. I was able to push through it.”
Hernangomez, Porzingis’ former teammate in Spain, had a 16-point, 16-rebound night. But Vujacic gave the weary Knicks a huge lift with peskiness, effort and shot-making.
Vujacic became the first Knick to record two four-point plays in the same game. He had one in the fourth that helped spark the Knicks on a 27-10 run, and scored 12 points in all. Vujacic also annoyed some Nets with his defense and physical style.
“When you don’t play as much, you want to prove to them that you still exist, you are still out there with purpose,” said Vujacic, who played just 4:43 over the previous nine games. He played 22:21 Wednesday night.
“I felt like you know what, If I get an opportunity, I am just going to go for it,” added Vujacic, a two-time champion with the Lakers. “My teammates trusted me and the coaching staff saw that, and they let me in. Once I saw that I won’t be out in a couple of minutes and you can make a couple of mistakes and stay in there if you are willing to hustle back, it just felt great. It felt like I was breathing again to be honest and I miss that feeling for a long time.”
Derrick Rose, who missed his third straight game because of a sprained left ankle, is completely out of the walking boot and was shooting jumpers before the game. He said the plan is to try to run Thursday, practice Friday and return Saturday when the Knicks host the Cavaliers.
“I’m going to try to go next game.” Rose said. “Every day it’s improving. It’s a process. I’m not rushing it. I’m getting a lot of treatment and resting it every day. I’m out of the boot so there’s a lot of progression.”
Seeing a specialist
Lance Thomas will see a specialist because of the headaches he’s still experiencing after fracturing his left orbital bone Jan. 15. Hornacek said everything was fine after Thomas saw an eye doctor Wednesday, but they’re concerned about the lingering headaches.