Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Short-Handed Knicks Stumble

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Short-Handed Knicks Stumble

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- It's been awhile since the Knicks had anything to play for, so it wasn't the worst thing that Kristaps Porzingis and Jose Calderon were banged up and out of the lineup again Sunday.

With the Pacers at Madison Square Garden fighting for a playoff spot, the Knicks shrugged off the implications and gave Carmelo Anthony the night off, too.

"I'm not worried about the Pacers," Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis said. "Only in the sense that we're still coming out to win this ballgame."

That was unlikely, whether Anthony took the night of rest or not. The Pacers, who are still hanging on to the eighth and final playoff berth in the East, built a lead of as many as 18 and hung on for a 92-87 win.

The Knicks came all the way back to take an 87-85 lead on a pair of Arron Afflalo free throws in the final minute. But Ian Mahinmi countered with two free throws and Paul George -- who had left the game with a sore ankle earlier -- hit a go-ahead jumper with 23.6 seconds left.

The Knicks went with the youth movement in starting rookie guard Jerian Grant for the second straight game and putting Cleanthony Early in Anthony's place.

There still was the puzzling decision to start Sasha Vujacic, who had a team-high 21 points, yet is hardly a part of any future and misfired on a potential go-ahead three-pointer. Indiana's Monta Ellis upped the lead to four with two free throws. Afflalo countered with a corner three-pointer with 14.7 seconds remaining, but video review showed that he stepped out of bounds on the catch.

But the focus for the Knicks -- and Rambis, if he survives the coaching search in the summer -- is getting a look at the younger players and most importantly, protecting the prize asset of the franchise. Porzingis sat out his third straight game with a strained right shoulder. He was hopeful, perhaps more hopeful than the team, that he could return for one of the final four games. …

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