NEW YORK -- The high-scoring New Orleans Pelicans head to Madison Square Garden on Sunday to play slumping New York, some two weeks after the Knicks shut down everyone but the Pelicans' Big 2 in a 105-103 victory at New Orleans.
Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins -- the league's most dominant down-low duo -- combined for 60 points and 28 rebounds in the Dec. 30 game.
But it was Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks' talented young post-and-perimeter threat, who ruled the game during crunch time. Porzingis had seven straight points down the stretch for the Knicks, who evened their record at 18-18 with the win.
The Knicks are 1-5 since, including two overtime losses and Friday's 118-108 setback at Minnesota.
"We didn't play well," Porzingis said after the loss to the Timberwolves. "There's a lot of things that come into that. They forced us to turn the ball over. It just wasn't a good (fourth) quarter for us. They're playing home. They turned it up. We didn't really respond."
While New York has been uneven almost throughout the season, with tremendous peaks and valleys, the Pelicans have been remarkably consistent, albeit mediocre.
New Orleans (21-20) has been within three games either way of .500 throughout the season, and the Pelicans are 3-4 since winning three straight for the third time this season in mid-to-late-December.
The problem for New Orleans, much like the Knicks: Aside from the terrifying tandem of Davis and Cousins, the Pelicans have had trouble identifying a third primary scorer as only guard Jrue Holiday (18.1 points per game) averages more than 13 points for New Orleans.
That has led to some lackadaisical efforts, including Wednesday's 105-102 loss at Memphis, which prompted coach Alvin Gentry to scold his team.
"Find some urgency," he said. "Start the games with urgency, finding more seriousness to our approach."
Like the Pelicans, the Knicks have struggled to find a reliable No. 2 for Porzingis, but the return of second-leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. goes a long way to address that issue. Hardaway missed 20 games with a lower left leg stress injury but returned Friday with 16 points in 25 minutes.
"Yeah he looked good -- you can tell he wasn't up to his speed," Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. "That's going to take a little while. His speed even at this (stage) is faster than a lot of our guys. His speed will pick up and ability to drive to the basket. Maybe he's not ready to make that two-set drive from the top of the key."
Hardaway's return could spark a New York offense that ranks 21st in the NBA in scoring, and Porzingis in particular.
When Hardaway was sidelined in early December, Porzingis was averaging better than 27 points for the eason. In the month of January, without Hardaway, he's scored 19 points per game.