Kristaps Porzingis is now a Boston Celtic, and unfortunately for Knicks fans, it looks like he may have found a home.
Porzingis scored 30 points, had 8 rebounds, and importantly blocked 4 shots to lead Boston to a 108-104 victory of the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on opening night.
The Knicks charged the Celtics in the 4th quarter, coming back from a 10-pt deficit near the end of the 3rd to take a 6-point lead at 101-95 with 3:30 left.
But Porzingis came up huge at the end — hitting a killer 3 with 1:29 to put Boston on top 104-101, and also going 6-6 from the free throw line in the final 3 minutes to produce 9 of Boston’s last 13 pts.
Porzingis’s shot blocking had dampened a Knick rally at the end of the 3rd quarter, and had helped Boston pull out to the 10-point lead after NY had tied the game at 66 all.
Jayson Tatum also killed the Knicks with 34 points, but an even more key reason why the Knicks lost was free throws: NY went 14-26 from the line; Boston was 22-26. The Knicks also got ripped off on a key ‘flopping’ tech called on Jalen Brunson with 6:40 left that should have been a foul on Jayson Tatum (details below) — it was a 5-point swing at the time.
1. Porzingis Changes Boston’s Look
Boston made an interesting move in the off season, acquiring Porzingis in a 3-team trade that sent Marcus Smart to Memphis. Boston then sent their existing center Robert Williams, along with last year’s 6th man of the year Malcolm Brogdan to Milwaukee for Jrue Holiday.
Robert Williams was a good shot blocker (averaged 1.0 blocks per game last year) but Porzingis gives Boston even more of a shot-blocking interior presence and that was evident in the 3rd quarter of this game, as Porzingis was swatting away shots inside on Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson.
Porzingis’s shot blocking caused Jalen Brunson to not be able to penetrate and hit the floater like he normally does.
On offense — Porzingis was drawing fouls inside, and hitting his free throws, and then of course he can be deadly from the 3. He looks fully recovered from prior injuries and, according to ESPN announcers Mike Breen, Doris Burke, and Doc Rivers — looked happy on the court — as if he was having fun.
2. Barrett Tremendous
The best player on the Knicks was RJ Barrett, who had a terrific game — 24 pts on 8-20 shooting, 2-5 from 3, and 6-7 from the free throw line. Barrett was driving to the rim with authority as he always does, and hitting his 3 and free throws — the Knicks even had him take a technical free throw at one point. His shooting is looking good so far after one game.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) October 25, 2023
3. Quick Tremendous
Immanuel Quickley was at the heart of the Knicks 4th quarter surge that pulled them from 10 points down at the end of the 3rd into a 6-pt lead with 3 minutes left. Quick was quick on the court and hitting his 3 with confidence — he finished with 24 points on 7-11 shooting and 5-7 from 3 (5-6 in free throws).
4. QGrimes Hit Big Shots
Quentin Grimes had a good game — 11 pts on 4-7 shooting. He hit a key 3 and 1 late in the 4th to give NY a 99-93 lead. It looked at that point that the Knicks were going to win.
BIG SHOT. QDOT 🎯 pic.twitter.com/t3PNMXP8eH
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) October 26, 2023
5. Knick D Caused Turnovers
The Knicks 4th quarter surge was also led by the defense — the Knicks hounded Boston at mid and 3/4 court producing turnovers — Mitchell Robinson and Immanuel Quickley were a big part of that, as were Josh Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein.
🗣️JOSH HART pic.twitter.com/uE4SZ6RrZo
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) October 26, 2023
6. Randle Had Trouble Scoring Inside vs Porzingis
Julius Randle was outplayed by Kristaps Porzingis in this game. Randle shot 5-22 for 14 points, although he hit his 3 (3 of 8 from 3). He had trouble taking it to the rim with Porzingis inside. Randle did have 11 rebounds and 7 assists.
7. Knicks Lost Game at Free Throw Line
The Knicks lost the game at the free throw line. Despite RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley hitting most of their free throws, most of the Knicks did not. NY was 14-26; Boston was 22-26. Main culprits were Julius Randle (1-5) and Mitchell Robinson (0-2).
8. Knicks Ripped Off on Key 4th Quarter Play
The Knicks were ripped off on a key play in the 4th quarter: with the Knicks up 88-86 with 6:40 left, Jalen Brunson shot a 3 and came down on Jayson Tatum’s foot. Tatum should have been called for a foul — as he planted his foot under Brunson as Brunson jumped up — but instead the officials called Brunson for a flopping technical foul.
Tatum made both free throws to tie the game at 88.
All 3 ESPN announcers felt it should have been a foul on Tatum and 3 free throws for Brunson. That one call tilted the game — although the Knicks continued their surge at the time to take the lead later in the 4th.
Kristaps Porzingis had just been issued a technical foul for flopping a few plays earlier; it looked like the refs were ‘giving one back’. The NBA has instructed the referees to call techs on flopping this year so we will be seeing a lot of them called in the early going.