TORONTO – Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks were grounded in Canada.
In a game New York never led, Porzingis was bullied into inefficiency and his team was blown out by Raptors, 107-84.
It was the most lopsided defeat of the season for the Knicks (8-7), who shot an abysmal 33 percent and fell to 1-4 on the road. Porzingis, who missed 10 of his 13 shots while managing just 13 points, suddenly looks mortal after his blazing start.
In the last three games, he’s averaging 19 points on just 34 percent shooting. On Friday, he couldn’t solve the physical defense of Pascal Siakam and the Raptors (10-5) led by double-digits for the final three quarters.
Porzingis has been dealing with right elbow bursitis, which remains swollen and, “a little sensitive.” He opted against wearing the compression sleeve on the shooting arm, but the added freedom of motion didn’t help Friday.
“If I do fall on (the elbow), it doesn’t matter if the little pad is going to be there or not,” Porzingis explained. “It’s going to get hit. I’d rather have nothing on it and have the elbow free.”
Toronto was led by its All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry (22 points, nine assists, eight rebounds) and DeMar DeRozan (22 points, seven assists). There were no heroes for the Knicks, whose leading scorers were Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Porzingis’ magic needs a reboot. The Knicks can’t win when he’s being outplayed by the likes of Siakam.
“Maybe we all got spoiled,” Knicks coach Hornacek said. “Guys aren’t going to go 14-for-23 every game. But teams are playing a little bit differently. Sometimes they’re doubling, sometimes the guy cuts, that guy is trying to stop him and double him. But some nights you’re going to make shots, some nights you’re not. He still draws a lot of attention, which helps the other guys.”
Winning has proven more difficult for the Knicks away from the Garden, which is why they should send a Christmas card to the schedulemaker.
New York is the only team in Eastern Conference to play as few as five games on the road. Following Wednesday’s rematch against the Raptors at the Garden, the Knicks will have hosted 12 of their opening 17 games.
For a young team trying to build from the bottom, the home-centric start has been advantageous – and the home crowd deserves the assist.
“As it turns out, when you have a new group together it helps with their confidence,” coach Jeff Hornacek acknowledged. “You get some wins, the excitement at the Garden, the fans, it gave them a boost. It probably turns out that was good for us.”
The Knicks are 7-3 at the Garden this season, including 5-1 since falling to the Rockets on Nov. 1. The schedule gets really road-intense in January, when the Knicks start a 16-game stretch with just three at the Garden.
Maybe that’s why Hornacek is still tempering expectations and charting progress step-by-step. For the first time, he referenced a three-year plan to contention (which exceeds the length of the coach’s contract).”
“You go into every season with high hopes, but (playoffs) wasn’t what we’re focusing on,” Hornacek said. “We were trying to lay a foundation and play a base where we could grow in three years to get to be a good team. We still have a lot of work to do.”