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Loss to Nets shows how important Carmelo Anthony is to Kristaps Porzingis

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Carmelo-less Knicks fall to Nets (1:28)

With Carmelo Anthony sitting out due to an ankle injury, the Knicks fall the Nets 110-104. (1:28)

NEW YORK -- Kristaps Porzingis has inspired a wave of optimism among Knicks fans. And rightfully so.

Based on what Porzingis has shown so far, it's easy to imagine a Knicks future centered on the rookie.

Anyone who has paid attention to the NBA knows Porzingis has knocked down 3-pointers, converted put-back dunks and blocked shots at rates that aren't normal for 7-foot-3 20-year-olds.

But on Wednesday, Porzingis struggled in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets. He missed 12 of 17 shots, finishing with only 12 points in 37 minutes.

In a big-picture sense, the loss shouldn't be a cause for alarm for the Knicks. The club was playing the second game of a back-to-back and was without Carmelo Anthony, sidelined because of a sprained right ankle.

But if there's one takeaway from Wednesday, it's this: Anthony has been an underrated and important factor in Porzingis' early season success.

Consider the following numbers, per the NBA's media site:

1. With Porzingis and Anthony on the floor, the Knicks have a net rating of +4.3. With Porzingis on the court without Anthony, New York's net rating is -11.3.

2. Overall, the Knicks have outscored opponents by 99 points in 923 minutes with Anthony and Porzingis on the court. With only Porzingis on the court, the Knicks have been outscored by 42 in 225 mintues.

3. Porzingis' free throw rate -- or the number of free throws he attempts per shot -- is .276 with Anthony on the court and .184 when Anthony's on the bench.

4. Porzingis has made 35 percent of his above-the-break 3-point attempts with Anthony on the court and 28 percent of them when Anthony's on the bench.

None of this is to suggest Porzingis can't survive without Anthony. Two of the rookie's best games this season have come with Anthony sidelined (24 points, 14 rebounds, 7 blocks vs. Houston and 23 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists vs. Cleveland).

But on Wednesday, Anthony's absence allowed Brooklyn to focus its defense on Porzingis.

"I could feel the pressure from the beginning," he said afterward. "They were really getting into my jersey and playing tighter defense."

Thaddeus Young wouldn't leave the rookie alone. With Anthony out, Young -- and the rest of the Nets' front line -- didn't have to.

Thirteen of Porzingis' 17 shots were taken with a defender within 3.5 feet of him Wednesday, per NBA.com. (For perspective here, 55 percent of Porzingis' attempts this season have been taken with a defender at least within four feet of him).

Would things have been different if Anthony were out there? Probably.

"He kind of creates a lot of situations for us. He has the ball. He's getting the defense to be tighter and we can get wide-open shots," Porzingis said. "... I could tell the difference between when Melo's on the court and when I'm by myself or with Arron [Afflalo] or Derrick [Williams]. I got to be ready for that."

The truth is, Porzingis doesn't really have to be ready for that. Anthony probably will be back on the court Saturday against Memphis. And, if the Knicks are lucky, the star forward will be relatively healthy for the rest of the season.

So Porzingis doesn't have to get used to life without Anthony just yet. Nights like Wednesday show just how much the rookie needs him.