PHILADELPHIA — As the Knicks have bumbled through the season, one of the things that they could rely on was the scoring of Tim Hardaway Jr. And when Hardaway drained a three-point field goal early in the third quarter he was not only producing the necessary offensive output, but doing it through an injury that could strike another blow to the Knicks season.
In the morning, Knicks coach David Fizdale revealed that Hardaway, who sat out Monday’s game, was battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot, an injury that is hard to heal when running the floor with the rigors of the NBA game. But on this night, Hardaway was scoring and keeping the Knicks in the game.
But the injury is one that will nag a player and the reality was that he — and the Knicks — could not keep it up. He didn’t score another point for more than 15 minutes and by that time the Knicks were trailing by 23 points, on the way to a 131-109 loss to the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.
Hardaway scored seven points in the first 4:05 of the second half, a three-pointer closing the gap to 76-73 after the Knicks trailed by as many as 15 in the first half. But that was as close as the Knicks would get, with Ben Simmons posting a triple-double (13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists), and now the bigger issue is what the Knicks will get out of Hardaway, who had 22 points after that three-pointer and finished with 27 in 28 minutes.
“To me, I just live by if it isn’t broke then you can still go out there and play,” Hardaway said. “That’s just what I’ve been living by ever since I was a kid and I’ve always wanted to play. Nothing is going to stop me from playing. just listening to the training staff, listening to Fiz and some of the guys, my pops, just wanted to make sure it was the right decision for me to sit down, especially after a back to back and I did that.”
Entering Wednesday’s game Hardaway has averaged 21 points per game this season, but his numbers have dipped of late. Over his last 12 games he was averaging 16.3 points per game and shooting just 34.4 percent from the floor.
He sat out Monday against Phoenix, just the second game he has missed season. But Fizdale said that it is a nagging problem that will only allow him to play when he can manage the pain.
“Plantar fasciitis is nagging,” Fizdale said. “Some days it aches so bad you can’t move on it. Other days you can tolerate. He’s trying to manage it.
“He’s going to tell us. We’re going to treat it. The more he can tolerate, that’s what we’ll go with it. When he can’t take it anymore, that’s when we’ll give him rest. It’s one of those injuries that is a real tender injury because you do everything with your heel. He’s been battling for us. That’s why I love him.”
Fizdale said that he was unsure of whether Hardaway needing to sit Monday on the back end of back-to-back games will be common practice moving forward.
“I think that’s for our training staff and for Tim to say,” Fizdale said. “I just know that Tim’s been battling — it’s been about three weeks where he’s been putting on a good face and fighting through all this stuff for us. Again, what he’s done in other ways, I know he’s receiving [criticism for] shooting percentages and stuff like this, but this kid has grown in leaps and bounds and has matured faster than I ever thought he would. The shooting percentage will pick back up as he starts feeling better and as our young guys get better and we can start having other guys as a threat on the floor to draw attention away from him, the shooting percentage will go up.”
The only real help on the offensive end for Hardaway came from Kevin Knox, who had 21 points, converting 8 of 17 from the floor. The real trouble was on the defensive end though, where the Knicks surrendered 38 points in the first quarter, 66 in the first half and then the 76ers just continued to pile it on.