NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, November 29, 2015, 10:40 PM
Kristaps Porzingis scores 20 points and grabs 13 rebounds but the Knicks still manage to drop their fourth straight game.
It was just two points on the first play of overtime, but it seemed symbolic – a sign of where this was headed.
The Knicks had just collapsed in the fourth quarter, their lead disintegrating amid dysfunction. Dwight Howard, the elder statesman in this matchup, rolled off a pick and caught and alley-oop pass, finishing it all over the back of Kristaps Porzingis.
The Rockets were down and out in this game, but the Knicks, playing without an ill Carmelo Anthony, let them back in. And after Howard jumpstarted the overtime with his emphatic finish, New York couldn’t hit the big shot and dropped a disheartening one, 116-111, in OT.
It’s now four straight defeats for the Knicks (8-10), although none were as heartbreaking as Sunday evening. They blew a 14-point lead in about seven minutes of the fourth quarter, watching Marcus Thornton tie the game on a 3-pointer with 32.2 seconds left that deflated the Garden. It was the first time New York hadn’t led since the first quarter. They never led again.
Without Anthony, who was a late scratch, Arron Afflalo shouldered the offensive load and scored 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting in 42 minutes. Porzingis added 20 points with 13 boards, outplaying Howard (14 points, six rebounds) with the exception of that alley-oop jam to start OT.
The Knicks, who shot 57.7 percent, couldn’t finish when it mattered – Lance Thomas missed a potential go-ahead jumper in the final seconds of regulation, before Langston Galloway, Jose Calderon and Afflalo all missed potential game-tying 3-pointers in the final seconds of OT.
The first half was much better for the Knicks, who led by 14 at the break. One of the more encouraging signs that this might’ve been New York’s night occurred with 3:27 remaining in the second quarter, when Lance Thomas streaked for a fastbreak and didn’t see the pass that hit his arm midstride.
Derrick Williams throws down a dunk as the Knicks appear to be on their way to win before a fourth quarter collapse.
Thomas, an undrafted second-year pro, got his first start of the season in place of Anthony and, on this particular play, his arm inadvertently re-directed the pass to the perfect place – around the defender, clearing the way for Thomas to gather the ball and finish a breakaway double-pump jam.
The Rockets (7-10) are a big mess the season after advancing to the Western Conference finals. They already fired a coach, Kevin McHale, and the replacement JB Bickerstaff had overseen a defeat to New York just eight days prior.
Porzingis exploded with his best game as a pro – securing a stat line that included 14 boards and seven blocks. Bickerstaff pledged before the game to pressure the 20-year-old rookie.
New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas (42) scores in the 1st half.
“”We got to do a better job guarding him. We obviously know his skillset, we know his talents. So we have to take the challenge,” Bickerstaff said about 90 minutes before tipoff, before Anthony was a late scratch because of an undisclosed illness. “We can’t give him his strengths. Last game we allowed him to set his feet, take shots that he’s capable of knocking down. We have to do a better job. I think he had four or five offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter himself. So we got to do a better job defending him. We have to be more aware, more prepared, more physical.”
It didn’t happen. Porzingis roamed the paint, scoring on a putback and alley-oop. But when it mattered most, the Knicks collapsed and New York left the Garden with a deflating defeat.