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Kristaps Porzingis displayed superstar determination in battling DeMarcus Cousins

Boogie should have crushed the skinny rook. He didn't.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins is not a man I'd want to mess with. He might be the most skilled center in the game at the moment, and one ornery cuss, to boot. It's hard to think of a more challenging for a lanky youngster like Kristaps Porzingis, who has played most of his minutes this season at power forward.

Yet there he was, left in to play center as Boogie checked back into the game at the 9:10 mark in the fourth quarter. The experience did not start well:

For weeks now we have been talking about not only Porzingis's revolutionary skill set, but his toughness, his willingness to challenge anybody. Thursday night was perhaps the most magnificent display of that attitude, starting with Boogie's next shot attempt:

We've seen Kristaps do some amazing things so far. He's nailed clutch threes, buried impossible floaters, dunked over entire teams. That challenge on Boogie, one minute after getting mauled and embarrassed by an All-Star, might have been the most impressive.

Cousins hit only two of his final six shots after yamming it on young Kristaps, with one of those makes coming on a fast-break tip-in. Kristaps was able to use his length to deny Cousins the ball on several occasions. (Great example here at the 1:21 mark)

The Knicks may have blown an opportunity to steal the game in the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter, but Cousins (6 points on 3-7 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 1 steal) met his match in Porzingis (6 points on 1-2 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover, 2 steals), the kid we once assumed was too soft to play big minutes at power forward, let alone center. Even as a rookie, Kristaps meets every challenge head-on.

This the kind of player you can build a team around.