Kings brace for Porzingis' return in road tilt vs. Knicks

NEW YORK -- Coming off their first two-game winning streak of the season, the Sacramento Kings were staring at yet another bit of fortune heading into their Saturday night showdown against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Unfortunately for the Kings, however, it seems Kristaps Porzingis will suit up against them.

Porzingis, who missed New York's 112-99 loss at Orlando on Wednesday with ankle and elbow injuries, is expected to return against Sacramento.

Too bad for the Kings, who are just 1-5 on the road this season.

The difference between the Knicks with Porzingis and without him is just that stark.

"I think we didn't have our head in the game as usual -- maybe it was a back-to-back, but we know we have a lot of work to do," point guard Frank Ntilikina told reporters after the game. "KP makes basketball easier. ... We now know we have to work harder when he's not there."

The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week averaged better than 33 points per game last week, setting a career high with 38 in an Oct. 30 win over Denver before scoring 40 on Sunday in a come-from-behind victory over Indiana. Porzingis then scored 28 with four 3-pointers and added five rebounds and three blocks in another come-from-behind win over Charlotte.

Without Porzingis, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Michael Beasley, the Knicks (6-5) struggled over the final three periods, in which they were outscored by 14. While Tim Hardaway Jr. had 26 points, no other Knick had more than Doug McDermott's 13, and New York committed 23 turnovers. Jarrett Jack had six turnovers alone.

"That was the difference in the game," coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters. "They had a lot more energy. We got tired and we had to cut down on mental errors. Like any team missing their star player, guys have to step up."

While the Knicks return Porzingis and his 30 points per game to the lineup, the Kings will counter with one of the most meager offenses in the entire league. Behind top scorer Zach Randolph, whose 13.6 points per game is the worst team-leading mark in the league, Sacramento has averaged just over 95 points per game.

The Kings (3-8) have made up for it on the defensive end of late, as they shut down Oklahoma City's big three in a 94-86 win on Tuesday. Sacramento held Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to a combined 15 of 54 shooting and 48 total points.

On Thursday, the Kings halted Philadelphia's five-game winning streak -- its best run in years -- with a 109-108 victory, sealed by first-round pick De'Aaron Fox's game-winning 19-foot jumper with 13.4 seconds left.

"That's a shot I've been taking all the time," Fox told reporters after the win. "That's a shot that I'm extremely comfortable with. That's what he gave me, so I took it."

The Kings will be without the services of Vince Carter, who is sidelined with kidney stones.

The Knicks on Friday announced they assigned Ron Baker and Damyean Dotson to the G League's Westchester Knicks.

On Monday, New York will see the return of Joakim Noah from a 20-game suspension for a performance-enhancing drug ban.


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