Knicks SF Lance Thomas may not have jumped out off the score sheet on Sunday, but it was his defense that helped the team in their comeback win over the Pacers.
The real reason the Knicks came back was because of their star F Kristaps Porzingis, who netted a career-high 40 points with 24 coming with 13:26 left in the game. Just before Porzingis went off, Thomas spoke to him saying the 22-year-old needed to carry the Knicks out of the deep hole they dug.
His speech clearly worked.
"I told him, 'Bring us home. Everything on the defensive end, I got your back. Don't worry about that. Bring us home," Thomas told The Post's Fred Kerber. "And that's what he did."
Thomas's defense didn't go unnoticed either. Head coach Jeff Hornacek praised the veteran who has been the defensive backbone for the Knicks early on this season.
"He's maybe our best defender. He takes on challenge. That's kind of his role, to be that defensive guy," Hornacek said. "He's been a great leader for us, even though we don't play him big minutes. He's always ready."
Thomas is currently averaging 13.3 minutes per game, but he has been making the best of them on the defensive side of the ball. With Porzingis leading on offense, he prides himself leading the defense while on the court.
"I just want to affect the game. A lot of the things I do for this team I don't need praise for it, I don't need a pat on the back. I do it because my teammates expect it of me and because I know that's what I'm capable of. Whenever my number's called, I'm always ready," Thomas said.
He was ready to turn the tide on Sunday as the Pacers were running up the score. Thomas saw the Knicks body language drooping, and he knew he had to make a change.
"I saw that our intensity level was low and our body language was bad," he said. "As a leader of this team, I'm always like, 'Hey, when we fix our body language we'll have a chance.' We had our heads down, we were complaining about the way the game was going."
So, Thomas came on the court in the fourth quarter, and never left. His play sparked the Knicks, and gave them the energy they needed for the comeback.
"It's playing hard. When I say it to my teammates, it resonates with them because they know I practice what i preach," Thomas said. "I'm not going to say, 'Go out and go hard,' and then I go out and play with my head down. When I got my chance, I wanted it to be infectious. I wanted my guys to see me picking guys up full-court, trying to make the extra play and just scraping."
Tim Hardaway Jr. was so impressed with Thomas' play late in the game that he thinks he deserves the game's highest honor.
"LT gets the game ball," Hardaway said. "He came in and did a fantastic job...He did all the little things. He definitely gets the game ball."
Thomas finished 1-for-4 shooting and made both of his free throws for four total points. He is averaging 3.0 points and 2.9 rebounds per game this season.