Kristaps Porzingis made his mark with his new squad quickly after joining.
Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 108-104 thanks to a 30-point performance, eight rebounds, four blocked shots, and nine consecutive points late in the fourth quarter to take the lead.
To be asked how it felt to defeat his old squad in his first game with his new one, Porzingis said, “That was awesome,” with a big grin. “I won’t lie, that was fantastic. It’s always great to play here at the Garden as the home team, of course, but it’s also a lot of joy to play here on the road.
“When the supporters got into it and made a comeback, it became pretty insane at one point. However, we maintained our composure and were able to win the game.
“Overall, a fun game to play in, for sure.”
Porzingis had a fantastic start, breaking Dominique Wilkins’ 1994 mark of 25 points in his Celtics debut to create a new team record.
He also shown his adaptability. In addition to topping the club with a 9-for-10 performance from the free throw line, he led Boston in both three-pointers, making five of the twelve Celtics. After stopping four shots, he made many more adjustments and ended with a game-high plus-13 in 38 minutes.
“He has an innate ability to put two on the ball, whether they’re trying to pop and veer, whether they’re trying to blitz him, and so when he gets the space, he’s a magnet,” Joe Mazzulla, the Celtics coach, said. “They’re going to look different than they did at times last year with him on the floor, so we just need to keep improving at our spacing and 2-on-1 reads. However, he allows us to accomplish more post-ups than we did in the closing minutes and significantly alter the game’s spacing.”
After a horrendous 35 seconds from Jaylen Brown, who made two bad passes in the halfcourt, one to Knicks guard Jalen Brunson and another to no one on the subsequent inbounds pass after a Julius Randle 3-pointer, before fouling Quentin Grimes on a made triple, the Celtics found themselves down 99-93 with 4:10 remaining. Porzingis’ brilliance was desperately needed.
That changed the game from a tie to a six-point deficit, energizing the Garden crowd and giving the Knicks hope for a second straight season of victory over Boston on national television.
Instead, Porzingis’s six three-pointers were sandwiched around a huge three-pointer on the right wing that gave the Celtics a one-point lead with 89 seconds remaining, allowing Boston to go on a 13-3 run and turn the tide of the game.
Tatum said, “That was big.” “I believe we made timely plays for us to call that timeout right there and sort it out. Obviously, receiving the bonus was beneficial. However, we were sort of harming ourselves by rebounding, since it gave them opportunity for second and third chances. Giving them one opportunity once we began receiving stopped allowed us to maintain control.
“We knew we wanted to run, we knew who we were trying to attack and we executed.”
Additionally, it was Jrue Holiday’s first game with the Celtics. Holiday had been traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in a blockbuster trade for Damian Lillard, and Boston had acquired Holiday the night before training camp began. Holiday finished the game with nine points, four rebounds, two assists, and three blocks despite having a quiet offensive night. However, he was a part of a fierce Boston defensive effort that limited Knicks stars Randle and Brunson to a combined 11-for-43 shooting, including 5-for-27 on two-point shots.
That was fitting for a bizarre night at MSG all around. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Knicks shot a scorching 18 for 41 (43.9%) from 3-point range, including 13 for 20 on open threes, but just 18 for 56 (32.1%) from inside the arc. Meanwhile, Boston shot only 12-for-39 from 3-point range, including 3-for-15 on open shots according to SIG, and 6-for-25 after a first quarter in which they were hot shooters, but 25-for-38 (65.7%) on twos.
Nevertheless, the Celtics displayed a great deal of poise and composure down the stretch against a playoff-caliber opponent in the Knicks to start a season that they hope will end in a championship. The sellout crowd of 19,812 at MSG included chants of “F— Porzingis” late in the fourth quarter when he was called for a technical foul for catching Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein in the face while trying to corral a defensive rebound.
And Boston accomplished it while seeing the sort of play from Porzingis that led the Celtics to decide to send Marcus Smart packing in June to acquire him and completely change their roster.
With his stature, shooting skills, and ability to create plays off the dribble, Jayson Tatum, who led Boston with 34 points and 11 rebounds, said, “He just makes us that much more dynamic obviously.” “Make the appropriate play and locate an open player when they double me late. He can shoot from wherever, of course.
“He truly is excellent. He’s excellent beyond belief. We are fortunate to have him.