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New York 120, Phoenix 107: “KP destroyed the universe”

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Not only are the Knicks playing “games they should win,” they’re winning them!

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The talk around the Knicks the past 24 hours has centered on the tension between the organization and its star player. Friday’s 120-107 win over the Phoenix Suns was just what both the Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis needed. The team won its fourth game out of five, bringing them to .500 and giving them a winning record at home, the first step a bad team takes toward being not bad. Porzingis’ 37-point, 3-block performance, on the heels of all the recent evil-stepbrother hysteria, was just what he and we needed. Most impressively, perhaps: the Knicks were up 21 in the first half, led throughout, and won a game they should win. Not a sentence that’s rolled off our tongues much this century.

The Suns were playing the fourth game of a five-game road trip, fresh off an upset win over the Wizards. T.J. Warren was coming off a 40-point explosion in Washington, and the Knicks and Porzingis shrugged and kicked some ass. Phoenix’s first two possessions were blocked and altered by KP; they missed their first seven shots en route to missing 25 of their first 30. Midway through the first a 17-2 Knick run had them up double-digits. Doug McDermott was throwing down. DOUG MCDERMOTT WAS STARING DOWN.

New York was moving the ball (six Knicks finished with 3+ assists), not turning it over, (only two first-half turnovers) and hitting just about everything inside the three-point arc. Led by Porzingis, who nearly tore Alex Len’s soul into pieces on a foul-interrupted facial, the Knicks built a 21-point lead, the fourth time in five home games they’ve led by 20+. They were hitting the Clyde Frazier trifecta: “hustle, bustle and muscle.” Bodies be hitting the floor tonight. Porzingis, Enes Kanter, Jarrett Jack, Warren, and Tyson Chandler all took shots. Warren suffered a concussion after colliding with Kanter, who suffered a lacerated chin. Porzingis had his nose bloodied. Something about the Knicks these past few years turns the Suns into the Bad Boy Pistons.

By the third quarter KP was hearing MVP chants from the same people who will turn on him the fastest. There were a lot of MVP chants tonight because Porzingis got to the line 13 times in an encouraging, exhilarating effort. Phoenix cut the lead to single-digits but the Knicks were never threatened. A Courtney Lee three followed by a Kyle O’Quinn highlight block of Tyler Ulis (his second highlight block of Ulis) put New York up 16, and then Porzingis casually did something no one in human history has ever done at his size.

This one was over early. The only late drama was Tyson Chandler being booed for an absolute bush-league uncontested dunk at the buzzer, after Jack had held on to the ball for a 24-second violation with six seconds left. It was a dick move by Chandler, a real Judgment Day bite-you-in-the-ass-er. Let it be entered into the public record. Dick. Move.

Notes:

  • Anyone who grew up watching Patrick Ewing play may feel some of the frisson I do watching a Knick big man drilling baseline turnarounds and midrange jumpers with ease. Historians noted he may have pulled off the first block/outlet/and-one dunk in NBA history.
  • The learning curve of an NBA rookie.

Later on, Frank Ntilikina was alone defending a 2-on-1 and held his ground perfectly, arms raised, forcing a miss. Hornacek digging in to him will get more ink, but the second point is more reflective, and resonant. Frank isn’t numbers; Frank is life. Check out the Knick bench numbers at one point in the second half.

Look at Frank’s stats. Then look at his plus/minus. Right?! The kid can play.

  • I feel more comfortable when Ntilikina’s running the offense than any Knick point guard since...Linsanity? Chauncey Billups? Mark Jackson’s second go-round?
  • In the first half Devin Booker pulled up from the same edge-of-the-logo 30-foot mark that KP hit from the other night. Booker missed. Devin Booker is no Kristaps Porzingis.
  • However, Booker can score. 34 points on 19 shots. Until the last five minutes, he was the only Sun in double-figures. Six Knicks were.
  • I was typing and not looking at the TV when Jack went behind the back to lose Mike James, only for James to recover and block Jack’s shot. Walt Frazier excitedly exclaimed “Blocked by James!”, hitting the last word on a crescendo (“JAME-ZZ!”), and my brain instinctively thought “LeBron is incredible.” That’s how amazing LeBron is. Even when he’s not playing, your instincts reflexively assume he did something great.
  • Doubleplus-good: the burgeoning chemistry between Porzingis and Kanter. Feels like once a night the Turkish Delight finds KP cutting to the rim for a dunk. Yes, please.
  • You know how Phil Jackson and Kurt Rambis talked about wanting to see Porzingis play more inside the arc and not take so many threes? You know how this year he’s taken this quantum leap toward stardom? You know how this year he’s playing more inside the arc, shooting more midrange jumpers than ever before and fewer three-pointers?

Somewhere in the cosmos, there’s a dimension where Phil and Rambis go down in Knick history as primordial heroes in the epic story of the team’s renaissance. Might as well be yours.

  • 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 assists for the #1 reason some of you didn’t think about Willy Hernangomez once tonight.
  • After Warren—a month ago in the league’s concussion protocol—banged into Kanter and was knocked out of action, Tim Hardaway Jr. got the rebound and found Kanter ahead of the seemingly-distracted field for the open-floor slam. If this were a soccer game, the Knicks taking advantage of an injured opponent would be poor sportsmanship. It’s not, I guess, so it isn’t, but is it, though?
  • Lotta nice buckage from Michael Beasley tonight. Between the third and fourth quarters he scored nine in a row as the Knicks gained separation.
  • If the Knicks were straight-up tanking, Courtney Lee would be forced into overextending himself, because his teammates would stink and both he and the team would be invested in him producing at the highest possible level in order to make trading him more appealing. But the Knicks are surprisingly competitive, thanks to several players surpassing expectations to various degrees (Porzingis, Kanter, Ntilikina, O’Quinn, Jack, maaaybe Hardaway?), so when a possession ends with the 4th option getting an open three, and that option is Lee, it feels good. If Lee’s the second-best player on the floor, you’re toast. If he’s fourth or fifth, life’s sweeter than Jewish wine.
  • I was going to post a clip of a vicious put-back dunk by Chandler, but his late dickness was so abhorrent I refuse to give him credit for anything, even though OAKAAKUYO. So instead, I bestow that honor upon another ex-Knick.
  • Bias confession of the night: when McDermott misses a three, especially backbreaker threes, I find myself more annoyed than seems reasonable, because deep down I feel that Doug McDermott should be lethal on the level of Kyle Korver or Steve Novak on those shots. But why do I feel that way? Because he’s a white forward who can shoot? Also: coming into tonight, McDermott had hit 42% of his three-pointers this year. Korver and Novak’s career percentage from downtown? 43%.
  • Rebecca Haarlow called Porzingis’ arm wound “pretty awesome” and earlier in the broadcast called the Ntilikina/Fresh Prince comparison “spectacular.” It can’t all be fortissimo, RH. It can’t.

Quoth Latvian Prankster: “KP destroyed the universe.” Naturally it came against the team from a city named for a creature that rises out of destruction. Out of the ashes comes Indiana Sunday night at MSG. See ya then.