Porzingis, Rose continue to take flight for Knicks

Those were in fact groans echoing inside Madison Square Garden when Carmelo Anthony held the ball in the fourth quarter and waited for his teammates to clear space.

It was a sound we really haven’t heard around here since Patrick Ewing’s final days. That reaction from the fans, then and now, is more of a plea. Loosely translated it suggests “let’s try something else” especially with Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose on the floor.

On Tuesday night, Carmelo missed the only three shots he attempted in the fourth quarter of the Knicks 107-103 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. He scored 17 points but didn’t take a shot in the last 4:10 so you can’t accuse Carmelo of being selfish and/or hard of hearing. If anything, Carmelo’s contribution was hustle plays; three rebounds in the last 2:40 including a huge offensive board with 31 seconds remaining.

“We won the game on hustle plays, extra effort,” Anthony said. “Everyone gave extra effort on the defensive end.”

But at the other end, where Carmelo has forged a Hall of Fame career, he was held scoreless in the final 12 minutes. And yet the Knicks still found a way to win. Imagine that.

Jeff Hornacek’s team won with Rose darting and juking as if it were his MVP season with the Chicago Bulls. They did it with Porzingis forcing Portland to scramble all over the court and they did it with an unproven rookie, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, nearly outscoring the NBA’s second best backcourt in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks have won two straight since Saturday’s celebrated team meeting and the win got them back to .500 (7-7) heading into Thanksgiving. It was also another victory without Joakim Noah, Phil Jackson’s $72 million free agent signing, who was out sick again. And quite frankly, the Knicks have been better without Noah while beating two quality opponents, Atlanta and Portland.

Carmelo Anthony missed the only three shots he attempted in the fourth quarter.

Carmelo Anthony missed the only three shots he attempted in the fourth quarter.

(Mary Altaffer/AP)

The Knicks are more versatile and better offensively minus Noah because Porzingis continues to improve and can play center. Also, the unlikely combination of Kyle O’Quinn and rookie Willy Hernangomez more than hold their own as Noah’s replacements. .

A week after setting his career high with 35 points in a win over the Detroit Pistons, Porzingis finished with 31 including nine in the fourth. But it was Rose, with a little help from the rookie out of Lithuania, who changed the game when it mattered.

The pair combined to score all of the Knicks points during a decisive 9-2 run to close out the game. Six of Rose’s 18 points came in the final 3:40 including a clinching turnaround jumper with six seconds left. Kuzminskas contribution was a long three off a broken play. Good fortune seemed to follow him everywhere. Earlier in the fourth, his three-point air ball turned into a lay-up for Courtney Lee.

Kuzminskas scored 10 off the bench and five in the final period. Meanwhile, the Blazers star studded backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for just eight fourth quarter points.

Portland, coming off Sunday’s win in Brooklyn, was on the front end of a difficult back-to-back. Immediately afterwards the Blazers were on a plane bound for Cleveland and a game against the defending champs. The Cavs last played on Friday.

That’s one of those scheduling quirks that every team faces during a season. It also put additional pressure on Portland to take Tuesday’s game. But the Knicks erased a nine-point first half deficit with Porzingis scoring 17 by intermission.

Kristaps Porzingis forced the Portland Trail Blazers to scramble all over the court.

Kristaps Porzingis forced the Portland Trail Blazers to scramble all over the court.

(Mary Altaffer/AP)

In both the first and third quarters, Hornacek removed Porzingis with just under six minutes left in each period. The thinking behind the move is to allow Porzingis to get more time with the reserves, especially when Anthony is on the bench.

With Melo not on the floor to begin the fourth, Hornacek went with his Euro lineup; Porzingis; Hernangomez and Kuzminskas. Along with a couple of Chicago imports, Rose and Justin Holiday, the Knicks overcame a four-point deficit and went ahead 89-87 when Kuzminskas scored on a drive.

Portland rallied and was leading 97-93 when Porzingis answered with a long three that had the crowd buzzing. The noise was slightly different moments later when Anthony isolated on former St. John’s forward Maurice Harkless and misfired on a jumper.

The Blazers would eventually go ahead 101-98 but the Knicks next three possessions resulted in Rose twice scoring in the paint, including a scintillating reverse lay-up and Kuzminskas nailing a long three. Anthony was a decoy at one end and a star making hustle plays at the other end.

The type of plays that lead to cheers and never groans.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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