Porzingis first hurt the knee in the first half, he said, but kept playing. When he tweaked it again early in the third quarter, he decided to be cautious and come out of the game after scoring 13 points in 18 minutes. While he felt some instability, Porzingis also admitted that his exit might have been a result of his own mental hang-ups — he knew something was off, so he came off the court rather than risk something potentially worse.
Porzingis will undergo tests Friday, but in the absence of more information, he said he could not offer any diagnosis or promise he would be ready to play Saturday when Carmelo Anthony makes his return to Madison Square Garden. Porzingis has already missed games this season because of a sprained ankle and an ailing back.
“Hopefully it’s not too serious,” he said.
His absence nearly cost the Knicks this game. They led by 13 points at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 18 at one point, but the Nets came back to take the lead midway through the third. It turned what the Knicks (15-13) had hoped would be an easy victory into a tense night.
Without Porzingis and Hardaway, they rolled out discordant lineups and relied on Courtney Lee. He stepped up, scoring 27 points and hitting timely 3-pointers, including one to close out the third quarter and give the Knicks an 87-82 lead. He hit another with 4 minutes 21 seconds remaining in the fourth to extend the Knicks’ lead to 100-92, then swaggered over to midcourt.
The loss was a missed opportunity for Nets (11-16), who have enjoyed a recent surge. They had won four of their previous six games, finding a groove despite being without the injured point guard D’Angelo Russell and their new acquisition, Jahlil Okafor, who has yet to see the court with them.
The win was just the Knicks’ second on the road this year, pulling them to 2-8 outside of Madison Square Garden. Their only other road win was in Cleveland in October. Though they have not yet resorted to a large overhaul of their approach to away games, Coach Jeff Hornacek said the team had been tinkering. Part of the team stayed at a hotel Wednesday night before the game in Brooklyn, while those who live in Manhattan joined them Thursday morning.
While the Knicks await word on Porzingis, they’ll also continue waiting on Hardaway, who has not played since Nov. 29. He cannot say if his injury is a stress fracture or give many details, but he did say that it was serious and it was improving.
Hardaway had been enjoying a breakout season, averaging 17.8 points per game and helped put the club in early playoff contention. Now, he is left to rehabilitate and watch. The Knicks have gone 4-3 in his absence.
“I’m not going to rush it,” he said.
He added: “The goal is just to get better first. I’m not giving myself no deadline because I don’t want to get to that point and be upset.”