Kristaps Porzingis thinks the New York Knicks are building toward a championship even as they spiral out of playoff contention.
The Knicks will try to win for the third time in 16 games Friday night against the Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden.
Porzingis has been a major bright spot for New York (24-35) after the organization was heavily criticized for taking the 20-year-old forward fourth overall last summer. His average of 14.1 points is the highest by a Knicks rookie since Patrick Ewing scored 20.0 in 1985-86, and his 110 blocks is already a club record for first-year players.
Despite Porzingis emerging as a key building block for the future, the Knicks have lost 13 of 15 after showing promise with a 22-22 record while sitting one-half game out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
New York is now 6 1/2 back, but Porzingis claims it's all part of the process.
"This is our first year together. This is my first year in the NBA," he said. "I think I'll grow as a player every season. We'll grow as a team. We have Carmelo (Anthony) to guide us; the young guys. I believe we have a group in the future to be something special.
"That's what I believe in. This is going to make us stronger mentally so when we get to that moment to be a championship team, we'll be ready for it."
Porzingis led the Knicks with 22 points and Anthony missed a potential game-tying 3 at the buzzer of Wednesday's 108-105 loss at Indiana.
"Everybody has to get connected," said interim coach Kurt Rambis, who is 1-4 since replacing the fired Derek Fisher. "We're really not connected as a team yet."
Anthony is averaging 23.8 points in six games since sitting out one with a sore knee. However, he scored 14 while missing 15 of 20 shots Wednesday.
Anthony has averaged 29.4 points while hitting 16 of 28 3-pointers over his last five meetings with the Orlando. He scored 23 while Porzingis was held to nine on 3-for-12 shooting in a 107-99 loss to the Magic (25-31) on Dec. 21. That came after Porzingis went 3 for 13 from the field in a 100-91 defeat at Orlando on Nov. 25.
New York is trying to avoid being swept in the three-game season series, which would be its longest slide against the Magic since dropping six straight from 2009-11.
Orlando, four games out of the East's final playoff spot, has won four of seven following a 2-15 stretch. The Magic, though, allowed Stephen Curry to score 51 points while falling 130-114 to Golden State on Thursday.
They've let opponents average 109.9 points and shoot 47.4 percent over the last 15 games.
"We gotta do a better job of getting stops, doing a better job of playing collective defense," guard Victor Oladipo said.
Evan Fournier led Orlando with 20 points, and he's averaging 21.3 over the last three games - 7.0 higher than his career-best season mark.
The swingman had 16 points at New York in December, while center Nikola Vucevic scored 26.
Vucevic has averaged 24.4 points and 14.0 rebounds over his last five matchups with the Knicks. He enters this one with 23.1 points and 11.3 boards per game over the past seven.