A winnable game was on the line and Kristaps Porzingis was on the bench when a familiar chant filled the Garden.
“POR-ZING-IS” the crowd pleaded. But Derek Fisher wouldn’t oblige.
The rookie was having another bad shooting night, and Fisher stayed with Robin Lopez for defense and Lance Thomas, who played a perfect offensive game. The decision didn’t work, though, leaving Fisher open to be second-guessed after the Knicks had their four-game winning streak snapped with a 107-99 loss to the Magic Monday night.
Lopez had no luck whatsoever guarding Nikola Vucevic. The Orlando center torched Lopez and the Knicks for 26 points on 13-for-19 shooting. Vucevic was 9-for-11 with 18 points in the second half.
“Matchups and the way the game was going,” Fisher said. “We liked physically Robin’s size more on Vucevic and Lance Thomas was playing well at the forward spot. So who do you take out? Those are tough calls to make”
Porzingis left with 7:22 remaining in the fourth and the Knicks down 85-83. When he returned with 1:07 to go, it was 104-94. The Knicks (14-15) could have used Porzingis with Carmelo Anthony limited in the fourth after spraining his right ankle late in the third quarter.
Porzingis finished 3-for-12 with nine points, eight rebounds and four blocks. But Fisher could have tried using him on defense to give Vucevic a different look. Fisher said he considered making a switch.
“You think about it,” Fisher said. “I don’t know if Kris is better in that situation in terms of guarding Vucevic one-on-one. The reality is if not for their record, this guy would have been an All-Star the last couple of years. Twenty-six is not 46 points.”
Porzingis admitted he needs to get stronger, but he would have tried to bother Vucevic with his length and activity.
“Robin is more of a guy who can hold him,” Porzingis said. “I’m more of a guy who can kind of dance around him and maybe get a steal here and there. That’s my game now because I’m not able to hold those guys yet.”
Thomas led the Knicks with 24 points off the bench. He shot 9-for-9 from the field, including 3-for-3 from three-point range, and 3-for-3 from the line.
Anthony had 23 points but only two in the fourth quarter after injuring his ankle. He hopes to play Wednesday in Cleveland.
“It happened late in the third, so coming back into the fourth I didn’t really try to kind of be aggressive,” Anthony said. “It was more of finding Lance out there because he had it going. If I could find him, he made shots, other guys made shots. So it was more being a facilitator than trying to be in attack mode at that point.”
Lopez had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Hills West product Tobias Harris added 20 for the Magic (16-12).
Orlando shot 51.2 percent and led wire-to-wire. The Knicks cut a nine-point deficit to one three times in the fourth quarter but never could get over the hump.
The Knicks had an opportunity to tie the score early in the fourth, but Porzingis missed a running bank shot with 8:01 left, leading to a Victor Oladipo transition layup an 85-81 Orlando advantage.
It was 93-92 after Thomas scored on a driving layup with 3:24 left. But Vucevic scored over Lopez on the next trip to put Orlando up three. The Knicks never got any closer.
After a Knicks turnover, Evan Fournier (16 points) drove and scored to put the Knicks in a 97-92 hole with 2:27 remaining. Later, Fournier drilled a wide-open three with 2:02 left that gave Orlando a 100-94 lead.
Vucevic put the finishing touches on the Knicks on the next trip, scoring on a baby hook over Lopez to make it 102-94 with 1:22 left.
“Some of them were too easy,” Lopez said. “I let him get middle a few too many times. I don’t know if I offered enough resistance frequently enough. That’s all on me.”