The New York Knicks are a team of many question marks. And the answer to each one of those questions is Kristaps Porzingis. The 21-year-old Latvian is the organization’s past, present and future. He is the alpha and the omega. Through him, we are saved.
Kristaps finally broke through the 30-point barrier on Wednesday night — by my unofficial count, he has score 28 or 29 points like two dozen times in his career. His 35 points helped lead the team to a 105-102 win over the Detroit Pistons. More importantly, it showed us the shifting balance of power in the basketball universe. Kristaps is now averaging more than 20 points per game while shooting an effective field goal percentage of .571. Only three other players in the league score that much at such an efficient clip: Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Kemba Walker. He’s doing things, y’all.
Here are his highlights. I suggest you watch them.
Watching him lead the fast break by himself and finishing sick-ass lobs in transition, it struck me that the player Kristaps most resembled on Wednesday night is peak DeMarcus Cousins. At his best, Boogie combines the athleticism of a guard, the size of a big, and the scoring versatility of a wing. That is Kristaps — a non-crazy Boogie Cousins. That’ll do.
- Wednesday night’s win also offered up the platonic ideal of the future (current?) offensive dynamic between Kristaps and Carmelo Anthony, who dropped a tidy 22 points on 9-17 shooting. Melo was especially efficient from beyond the arc (4-6). His three-point shooting has really started to come around after a dreadful start to the season, and he was able to bury the many open looks he found in the second half as Detroit shifted their attention to the rampaging Unicorn. This’ll do.
Melo and Kristaps: good at scoring pic.twitter.com/vaEhZJ1H2X— Joseph Flynn (@ChinaJoeFlynn) November 17, 2016
- Wouldn’t ya know ... Joakim Noah is not useless! The Knicks’ center put much of this week’s controversy to bed by scoring a quick 7 points and finishing the game with a team-high 15 rebounds. He looked for his own shot right from the get-go, and Derrick Rose made sure to involve him in pick-and-rolls. That being said, he wasn’t in the game at the end, as Hornacek once again decided to go small in favor of ...
- Justin Holiday! As a wing player replacing a center, it must feel particularly satisfying to save the game for your team by grabbing an offensive rebound in traffic. That’s exactly what Holiday did in the final minute, soaring in to secure a Melo miss. Holiday finished with 9 points and 5 rebounds. Six of those points came in the fourth, as the Knicks’ offense started to clench up as it usually does in a close game. Dude didn’t get those points on open jumpers, either; he attacked the bucket with verve. I love this guy.
- Was New York’s defense good or bad on Wednesday? I’ve pondered this for hours. Detroit scored 102 points and shot 49.4% as a team, which is bad. The Knicks did limit the fouls (only 12 Pistons free throws) and often forced them into tough shots, which is good. The Pistons kept burying those tough shots, which sucks, but is sometime unavoidable. Ish Smith hit a late three, which almost defies the laws of physics. The Knicks’ worst defensive possession may have been the last one, when they gave up a wide-open look to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who somehow missed. Good process, bad result; bad process, good result. I need to lie down.
- Derrick Rose only had 1 turnover, yet I feel like this was one of his weaker games as a point guard. He got Noah involved early, almost certainly at Jeff Hornacek’s request. And that was great! But I swear, the guy can only handle the concept of setting up one of his teammates on a given night. As you can imagine, none of his three assists were to Kristaps. Also, he took over the late-game iso-ball duties from Melo, which went about as well as traditional late-game iso-Melo. Rose did pick up the scoring slack, though, chipping in 15 points. He was the only player besides Melo and Kristaps to crack double-digits.
- Kyle O’Quinn played his best game of the season. He passed effectively, hitting a cutting Maurice Ndour for multiple buckets. He also helped neutralize Andre Drummond, which is pretty crazy when you think about it. He was very good! Still don’t trust him, though.
- Jeff Hornacek is pushing all the right buttons at the moment. He defused the Noah situation while not actually playing Noah big minutes. He has done a good job of getting production out of the erratic bench, alternating O’Quinn with Willy Hernangomez and Ndour with Mindaugas Kuzminskas depending on what the team needs and who is playing well at a given moment. Oh, and as per P&T’er Kristropolis’ request, he’s making sure Kristaps gets the damn ball. Well played, sit.
The Knicks have a chance to climb to .500 Thursday against the struggling Wizards. Please do that!