Knicks fans vented their fury in historic fashion against Kristaps Porzingis on Thursday, treating him like a Latvian Benedict Arnold from the second he stepped back onto the hardwood 20 minutes before tipoff.
All-night boos and rampant “KP sucks!’’ chants ruled this crazed Garden evening and the Knicks responded with a furious performance to beat Porzingis for the second time in a week in a 106-103 thriller against the Mavericks. The fans chanted “KP sucks!’’ at the final buzzer for one last rendition as the Knicks moved to 3-9.
With the score tied, Julius Randle got a key offensive rebound over Porzingis with 20 seconds left that led to a jump ball. The Knicks won the tip and Marcus Morris (20 points) won it with a 3-pointer from up top with 13.2 seconds left.
Porzingis got to his 20 points after missing his first four shots but was scoreless in the final period. He finished 7 of 17.
Another victory over Dallas should really help coach David Fizdale’s cause and owner James Dolan must have been proud that his Knicks fans protested Porzingis’ presence for not wanting to be part of one of the most famous franchises in sports.
Randle (17 points) finally was huge in the endgame. He ran over Porzingis for a driving layup with 1:40 left as the Latvian hit the ground but couldn’t get the call in hostile territory. That put the Knicks up 101-99.
The fans did their part and the Knicks closed it despite Luka Doncic’s shot-making (33 points).
Porzingis was quiet until the final seconds of the third quarter. He tracked a missed desperation 3 by Doncic and rammed it home just like he used to do in his first three seasons in New York. The crowd did what it did all night — booed — as Porzingis raised his arms. The score was tied at 87 after three quarters.
The fans were also furious at the officials. Dallas was called for 12 fouls while the Knicks were flagged for 26. It finally cost the Knicks when center Mitchell Robinson (16 points), back from a concussion and who played terrifically, fouled out with 5:20 left.
Playing with five fouls, Frank Ntilikina, the hero in Dallas last Thursday, came up with the biggest hustle play of the final period that had the fans bonkers and then hit two free throws with 3.9 seconds left.
Prior to that, the Frenchman knocked the ball away from Doncic with 4:00 left and scrambled for the ball in a mad tussle with the Slovenian. A jump ball was called, Ntilikina won the tip and Morris drained a 3-pointer to put the Knicks up four.
When the halftime buzzer sounded, Porzingis took several steps toward the corner where the Knicks file off the court to the locker room before catching himself.
The boos started 20 minutes before tipoff when Dallas players took the court for pregame warm-ups. It was clear then this crowd was bursting with venom for the former Knicks star. Even during timeouts, the fans chanted Porzingis’ initials.
During player intros, the boos were about as loud as they’d been for any opposing player in memory, but Porzingis wore a smile during the flogging. When he went to the line to shoot a technical for illegal defense in the opening minutes, the jeers were astoundingly loud.
Porzingis missed his first four shots before scoring on two tip-ins, putting his height to good use. He couldn’t make a jumper though, bricking both his 3-point shots and even missing a runner in the lane. He finally connected on a jumper with 4:15 left in the half.
Cheers were deafening when he attempted — and missed — his first shot, a turnaround, two minutes into the game and the Knicks ran off to an 8-2 lead.
After taking their lumps at the Garden, the Knicks’ energy level was high, sensing how bad its fans wanted a win. They even forced a 24-second violation with a stumbling Bobby Portis contesting Dorian Finney-Smith in the deep right corner.
The Knicks got big contributions from the bench in point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and Robinson. In his second game back from his family leave, Smith looked electric, pushing the pace even hitting two 3-pointers after being brutal from the field in his previous outings. It was needed because Ntilikina got in foul trouble.
Before the game, Fizdale felt the Knicks would feed off the energy.
“I think our guys just really, really want to do well for the fan base,’’ Fizdale said. “I think obviously tonight is a big game with Kristaps coming back. There’s going to be a lot of energy in the building. That’s a good thing. That’s a good challenge for our team to have to raise their level and play through that.’’
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