TORONTO — The Knicks already were facing a daunting task with Carmelo Anthony sitting out with knee soreness against the second-best team in the East when word came down that Kristaps Porzingis was too sick to play.
An upper respiratory illness kept Porzingis in the locker room and out of his first NBA game. The Knicks already have proven they can’t win without Anthony. Without Anthony and Porzingis, they had little chance against the Raptors.
The Knicks hung around but they never really threatened. The Raptors handed the Knicks their fourth-straight loss, 103-93 Thursday night at Air Canada Centre. In the process, the Raptors set a franchise record with their 10th consecutive win.
“We had our chances and we didn’t capitalize,” Derek Fisher said. “We fought hard but we could have been better. We could have won this game.”
The Knicks actually were without three-fifths of their starting lineup. Jose Calderon (sore right groin) also was unavailable. Scoring, as you would expect, was an issue. More than that, they needed multiple players to lift their games and it didn’t happen.
Arron Afflalo led the Knicks (22-26) with 20 points. Jerian Grant and Sasha Vujacic each had 13. Derrick Williams has been a reliable scorer off the bench, but he was just 3-for-12 with six points.
Kyle Lowry, an All-Star starter, finished with 26 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, despite playing with a sore left wrist. All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan also scored 26. Big man Jonas Valanciunas added 11 points and 18 rebounds for the Raptors (31-15)
The game could have gotten away from the Knicks early.
They trailed by 14 in the second quarter, and made a run to close within 58-57 with 6:39 left in the third. But the Knicks made just one field goal over the next 5:53. The Raptors outscored the Knicks 15-4 in that span and opened up a 73-60 lead.
Late in the fourth, the Knicks cut it to eight twice, but each time Lowry answered with a basket. First a layup and then he drilled a three-pointer to give Toronto a 92-81 lead with 2:52 to go. After a Vujacic three made it 94-86, Lowry knocked down another three with 1:45 to go.
This was the second straight game Anthony missed because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. He said he hasn’t undergone any tests or MRIs and isn’t concerned that it’s anything major. Anthony hopes to return Friday night against Phoenix.
“I’m very confident that this is nothing but some fatigue, a little soreness, some general soreness, probably just an overload of work,” Anthony said. “I feel much better.”
Porzingis’ status for Friday night wasn’t immediately known. He didn’t seem under the weather at the morning shootaround. The Knicks announced Porzingis was out about 45 minutes before tipoff.
He was in good spirits in the morning. He talked about being selected for the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend in Toronto, and his bigger dream. Porzingis believes he will be an All-Star.
When the NBA announced the All-Star reserves Thursday night it wasn’t surprising that the coaches didn’t pick Porzingis. But if he can stay healthy and continues to develop and improve, his dream could become a reality — maybe next year.
“I’ll keep working and one day I’ll be there,” Porzingis said. “That’s one of the things I want to achieve individually, but that will come with team success as well. I just want to grow as a player. As I grow as a player we’ll get better as a team and hopefully one day I can be there.”
Porzingis will play for the World Team against the U.S. in the Feb. 12 exhibition game featuring the top rookies and second-year players, but it appears he won’t be involved in the Saturday night activities.
The rookie has been playing through shoulder, foot and finger ailments and needs to rest.
“That’s a dream come true to be a part of All-Star Weekend,” Porzingis said. “My big dream is to be in the All-Star Game one day, but this is one step closer to that, and I’m just real excited for the weekend.”