Porzingis has 37, leads Knicks over Suns
NEW YORK — After racing back for an emphatic block on one end and streaking downcourt to get the ball back and slam it down while being fouled on the other, Kristaps Porzingis had one thing left to finish off his highlight-reel, end-to-end possession .
“I had to calm myself down to knock down the free throw,” Porzingis said.
He did, his final point in a 37-point performance that carried the New York Knicks to a 120-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns 120-107 on Friday night, giving Jeff Hornacek his first win over his former team and making a believer out of his opponent.
“Porzingis is special. He has a chance to be the best player in this league,” said Suns center Tyson Chandler, the former Defensive Player of the Year. “Watching him tonight and seeing what he’s done so far this season, he has a real shot of being the best player in this league.”
Porzingis fell just shy of the career-best 38 points he scored Monday against Denver, unable to score again after rejecting rookie Josh Jackson and delivering his powerful dunk on the other end to trigger loud “MVP! MVP!” chants.
“I loved that play,” Porzingis said. “Just the energy that was in the Garden at the moment, it was unbelievable.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points and Enes Kanter added 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Knicks. They bounced back from a loss to Houston on Wednesday to win for the fourth time in five games after a 0-3 start.
The Suns swept the two-game series last season, Hornacek’s first coaching the Knicks. He spent 2 1/2 seasons coaching the Suns from 2013-16.
Devin Booker scored 34 points for the Suns, who had won two straight and four of five after they also started 0-3. Phoenix lost forward T.J. Warren to a head injury in the first half, a game after he scored a career-best 40 points.
Porzingis was 13 for 22 from the field in his sixth 30-point performance in eight games this season.
“When you see a 7-3 guy backing up the court, doing between the legs, playing 1-on-1, that’s special,” Kanter said. “I mean, he’s been doing an unbelievable job.”
The Knicks led 32-19 after one quarter, then ran off the first eight of the second for a 40-19 advantage. Phoenix cut it to 72-66 early in the third but the Knicks pulled away again, pushing the lead back to 16 by the end of the period.
Suns: Warren was hurt in the first quarter when he crashed into Kanter, remaining on the court for a few minutes before returning to the locker room. The Suns said he had a headache and wouldn’t play in the second half. … F Marquese Chriss fouled out with more than 10 minutes remaining, finishing with five points and nine rebounds in about 16 minutes.
Knicks: Porzingis was listed as questionable to play after not practicing Thursday because of a stomach illness. He went to the Knicks’ training facility and sat in on their film session, but was then sent home. … Kanter was cut under his chin in the collision with Warren but was able to return without stitches.
Porzingis downplayed comments made in a Latvian magazine by his brother Janis, an agent in the firm that represents him, that surfaced a day earlier. Janis Porzingis referenced his brother’s dissatisfaction with the Knicks last season, when he skipped his exit interview, and noted that Kristaps would need to be happy to re-sign with the team in the future, even if leaving meant taking less money. But Kristaps said much of the comments were taken out of context and that fans shouldn’t be concerned. “I think the fans know I’m here in New York, I love New York and I see myself as a Knick for a long, long time, and I don’t think they should be worried about it,” Porzingis said.
END OF THE ROAD
The Suns were denied their first three-game road winning streak since winning five in a row under Hornacek in December 2014.
The Knicks went back ahead 63-62 in the series. The Suns still haven’t led since winning Oct. 24, 1968, in their first meeting.
Suns: Visit San Antonio on Sunday night.
Knicks: Host Indiana on Sunday night.
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