An ugly loss to the Celtics may the least of the Knicks’ worries after Arron Afflalo aggravates a hamstring injury and leaves the game in the third quarter.
BOSTON — In the process of getting dressed down by the Celtics in their final dress rehearsal, the Knicks may have lost a starter for when the games count.
For the first time in the preseason, coach Derek Fisher used his projected lineup and kept up with something closer to his regular rotations. But then injury threw a wrench into those plans, as starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo aggravated a hamstring injury and was removed in the third quarter of Wednesday’s 99-85 preseason finale loss to the Celtics.
Afflalo, who signed a two-year, $ 16 million contract in the summer, had missed most of training camp and preseason with a hamstring strain. He returned for the last three games, but couldn’t finish Thursday after playing a productive 19 minutes with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
Sasha Vujacic had been starting in Afflalo’s place, but the Bosnian didn’t get off the bench Thursday.
Coach Derek Fisher instead used Langston Galloway or Jerian Grant in the backcourt for much of the second half.
For Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, in particular, the night didn’t start well. The 20-year-old started at power forward and lasted less than 4½ minutes before he committed three fouls and promptly went to the bench. He settled down and managed 19 minutes, scoring eight points on 4-of-9 shooting. The highlight was a putback jam in the fourth quarter, which he followed with a turnover.
Anthony, who otherwise played well in the preseason, missed 14 of his 18 shots, including an open layup in the fourth quarter as Boston’s bench was in the midst of a game-breaking run against Knick starters.
Anthony tried to elevate for a dunk in the first quarter, but was emphatically rejected at the rim by Boston forward Amir Johnson.
Jae Crowder shoots the ball over Robin Lopez.
The Knicks finished the preseason 4-2 but dropped their final two games, with the regular season beginning Wednesday against failed free agent target Greg Monroe and the Bucks.
Porzingis struggled to stay on the court during the preseason, whether because of injury or, in Thursday’s case, foul trouble. He averaged 7.5 points in four games, shooting just 37%.
Still, Fisher has remained committed to starting Porzingis alongside Robin Lopez in the frontcourt, a towering twosome that struggled together — and separately — in the preseason. Boston starting center Cody Zeller dropped in 15 points in just 19 minutes, often running past his slower counterparts.
Knick starters were outscored by 10 points over 16 minutes in the first half. Still, Porzingis showed flashes of his smooth scoring and offensive versatility. He also continues to be a person of intrigue as the subject of the Knick hype machine.
The latest example was a picture from his preteen years that went viral, featuring Porzingis in Latvia with cornrows like Allen Iverson or Snoop Dogg.
“I loved the look,” Porzingis explained, “and all the girls loved it.”
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