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Kristaps Porzingis eyes return as Knicks rally, but lose

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis, center,

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis, center, and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony react on the bench during the first half against the Indiana Pacers in an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, April 3, 2016. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Kristaps Porzingis exceeded all expectations anyone not named Kristaps Porzingis had for the Knicks rookie, but that doesn’t mean he accomplished everything he wanted.

“No, because the goal was to make it to the playoffs, and we didn’t do that,” Porzingis said. “So from that perspective that’s not what I wanted to achieve. But it was a really good season for me to learn and see how it works.”

The Knicks believe they found a future franchise player in Porzingis and they want to protect him. But Porzingis doesn’t want this season to end with him on the bench because of a shoulder injury.

Porzingis missed Sunday night’s 92-87 loss to the Pacers at the Garden because of a strained right shoulder. Porzingis still hasn’t attempted to shoot yet, but he thinks and hopes he can return for the Knicks’ final “two, three games.”

The Knicks (31-47) also were without Carmelo Anthony (rest), Jose Calderon (deep thigh bruise) and Lance Thomas (sprained left MCL) Sunday night and still had a chance to upset the Pacers.

The Knicks erased an 18-point third-quarter deficit and led 87-85 with 1:18 left. But they didn’t score again.

Paul George, playing with a sore left ankle, buried a jump shot with 23.6 seconds to go to give Indiana an 89-87 lead.

After Sasha Vujacic missed a go-ahead three-pointer with 19.5 seconds remaining, Monta Ellis made two free throws to make it a four-point game with 17.2 seconds left.

Out of a timeout, Arron Afflalo hit a corner three-pointer to make it 91-90. But it was waived off because the referees reviewed it and ruled that Afflalo’s foot was out of bounds.

Vujacic scored 21 and Afflalo 15, respectively.

The Knicks have four games remaining. Porzingis playing again won’t change how he feels about the season, but it’s important to him.

“It’s more for myself,” Porzingis said. “I just want to be out there on the floor. I just want to compete, I want to play. Whatever the situation is right now, I just love basketball. I want to be on the floor. That’s what matters the most to me.

“I really want to come back and play the last few games.”

Porzingis, the No. 4 pick in the draft, is averaging 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.86 blocks. Even if he doesn’t play another game, he’s a lock to make the All-Rookie First-Team and likely will finish second in Rookie of the Year voting to Karl-Anthony Towns.

He hurt his shoulder stuffing a dunk attempt by New Orleans swingman Alonzo Gee last week. Porzingis couldn’t lift his right arm over his head two days after that. He can now, so he’s making progress.

But the Knicks’ medical staff will make the final decision on whether he can return. And it doesn’t sound as if Porzingis will fight them if they hold him back.

“I know I have to be smart about this,” Porzingis said. “There’s nothing really that I’m going to achieve by going out there the last few games, but I think I’ll be back for the last two, three games hopefully. But it’s not my decision at the end of the day.”

“This is more just making sure it doesn’t grow into a bigger problem. It’s nothing really that big. But we want to make sure it’s 100 percent.”

Anthony went to interim coach Kurt Rambis and said this would be a good game to sit to get a stretch of days off. The Knicks’ next game is Wednesday. Rambis said he expected Anthony’s absence to be “a one-game thing.”

Calderon, who just got off crutches Sunday, sounded doubtful that he would return this season. Regarding Thomas, Rambis said he doesn’t “anticipate him being back” before talking about how much the Knicks have the impending free agent whom they would like to re-sign.

“He’s a huge asset for us,” Rambis said. “He plays so hard on a lot of levels he almost embarrasses other guys if they’re not playing as hard as he does.”


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