Knicks’ Porzingis may return for game against Hawks

NEW YORK – The New York Knicks are cautiously optimistic they will have their star second-year forward Kristaps Porzingis available for their next four games, which they play in six nights.

The 21-year-old missed his second straight game, a 116-101 loss at Toronto on Sunday, with a sore left Achilles, and is questionable for Monday when the Knicks (18-23) host the Atlanta Hawks (23-17) at Madison Square Garden.

New York faces Boston on Wednesday, Washington on Thursday and Phoenix on Saturday.

Porzingis’ replacement, Lance Thomas, sustained a fractured orbital bone and had concussion-like symptoms after being hit with an inadvertent elbow from Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas during Sunday’s game. The Knicks announced Thomas’ condition after the game, saying that the 28-year-old would be re-evaluated on Monday and is expected to sit out Monday’s game.

At one point in the third quarter on Sunday, the Knicks trailed by 38 points, their largest deficit of the season.

If Porzingis is unable to play or his minutes are limited against the Hawks, Mindaugas Kuzminskas will likely see some action next to Carmelo Anthony in the frontcourt.

The Knicks could certainly use Porzingis’ 7-foot-3 presence at both ends. He is averaging two blocks and seven rebounds a game for a team that gives up 108 points a night, the sixth highest in the league.

Porzingis is also second to Carmelo Anthony in scoring, averaging 19.4 points.

“I need to get it 100 percent before I step back on the court again,” Porzingis told Newsday. “I need to take my time, calm down a little bit. I’m just too anxious to be out there.

“We have a tough schedule ahead of us. I want to be back as soon as possible. But at the same time, I want to make sure I’m healthy and that I can be 100 percent for the team.”

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek is cautious about Porzingis returning to action too soon.

“We’ve got a lot of games,” Hornacek said. “These games in January are coming at you, so it’s bad timing, but it is what it is. We were able to win the other night (104-89 over Chicago) without him, so we’ve got to try to do it again.”

The Hawks are soaring, having won eight of their last nine games after Sunday’s 111-98 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Mike Dunleavy, playing only his second game since being traded from Cleveland for Kyle Korver, scored a season-high 20 points. Dunleavy made two 3-pointers and scored six points in 15 minutes in Friday’s loss to Boston.

“It’s only two games and we have to be careful not to put too much into it,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s always been a belief that this would be a good place for him to play, a good way from him to play, moving and cutting and all of those things.

“It’s early, but he’s relishing his opportunity and we’ve welcomed him with open arms. The challenge will be for him to come out and do it every night and I know he will.”