NEW YORK — With the realization that the New York Knicks will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season, coach Jeff Hornacek is wisely using the remainder of the schedule to give his younger plays quality minutes.
The Knicks (27-41), who are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, host the Brooklyn Nets (12-54) on Thursday. The Nets defeated the Knicks 120-112 on Sunday.
The Knicks haven’t put together back-to-back wins since Dec. 20 and 22.
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“Whether we’re in the playoffs or not in the playoffs, we’re going to play hard the whole time,” Hornacek said. “The playoffs may not be in reach, but this especially could be for other young guys to get some time to show what they really can do.
“Until you’re mathematically done, you’re always going for it, but sometimes it’s realistic.”
Willy Hernangomez is one of those younger guys who has impressed Hornacek. The 22-year-old center turned in his seventh double-double of the season in a spirited, defensive-minded 87-81 victory over Indiana on Tuesday.
Hernangomez scored 13 points and pulled in 16 rebounds coming off the bench. With Kristaps Porzingis likely to miss the Nets game with a contused left thigh, Hernangomez should see his minutes increase.
In his last 16 games, eight of which he’s started, Hernangomez is averaging 11.2 points and 10.9 rebounds. He is first among rookies in field goal percentage and tied for second in rebounds.
Ron Baker hasn’t put up Hernangomez numbers, but Hornacek isn’t afraid to use the third-string point guard in key moments, primarily because of his defensive desire. Baker showed why he is a Hornacek favorite in the win over the Pacers.
“There was one time we’re we had two or three guys diving for a loose ball,” Hornacek said, That’s a credit to these players like Ron (Baker) that you’re probably not in the playoffs to still play like that.”
The Nets signed Archie Goodwin to a 10-day contract to help shore up their shooting guard woes. The 22-year-old Kentucky product has been playing for the Greensboro Swarm of the D-League.
Goodwin fills the Nets 15th roster spot, open since the Nets waived Luis Scola. He’s the 22nd player the Nets have had under contract this season — tied for the highest in franchise history.
“He’s the profile we’re looking for, young, talent, hasn’t found his footing in the league yet,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Great job by Sean (general manager Marks) and Trajan (assistant general manager Langdon) to bring in another guy we can look at and potentially build with him, build with him in the summer and see if we have something there.”
“He’s got to get his feet under him and hopefully in this 10-day period,” Atkinson said. “Probably right, not the first game. Get a few practices under his belt we can throw him in against the Celtics (Friday) or the Mavs (Sunday) and see where he is.”
Shooting guards Joe Harris is in the NBA concussion protocol and Sean Kilpatrick left Tuesday’s game with Oklahoma City with a hamstring injury.
The Nets are shooting .381 from 3-point range in their 10 games since the All-Star break, compared to .340 prior to the break.