Wed, Dec 11, 2019

NEW YORK — Revenge, as Kristaps Porzingis learned Monday, is a dish best served with deafening noise. New York Knicks fans may not have had much to cheer for during their 3-9 start to the season, but their 106-103 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday was an absolute masterclass is booing. 

They came in full force during the starting lineup introductions. A few scattered insults found their way into the silence of the national anthem. They came whenever he touched the ball, whenever a timeout was called and whenever Knicks fans decided to feel vindictive. And to their credit, the boos seemed to have an effect. 

“It looked like he was a little rattled too,” Marcus Morris said after the game. “It kinda helped us.” 

Porzingis failed to make a field goal in the first quarter, finishing with three points on free throws as the Knicks rolled out to a lead that stretched as high as nine. It was a lead they would hold until the end of the third quarter, when a Luka Doncic hot streak tied the game. 

Porzingis would eventually get going, but the cushion that the Knicks built up protected them from Dallas’ second-half surge. He tried to atone for the slow start late in the fourth on one of the biggest plays of the game, but couldn’t get the whistle he was looking for. 

Rarely will a player successfully draw a late-game charge call on a post-up from someone six inches shorter than them, and sure enough, Porzingis didn’t. The play itself proved emblematic of Porzingis’ season: ambitious in ideation, but questionable in execution. 

Porzingis was averaging 18.3 points per game entering Thursday, but on a career-low 40.1 percent shooting. Dallas has force-fed him 3.2 post-up possessions per game, yet they are scoring only 0.55 points per possession on such plays. That is by far the lowest number among players that post-up that frequently. Several late-game possessions were swung on the ineffective play, and it seems as if more are likely to come. But as poorly as he has played in certain areas, the approach will pay dividends down the line. 

Dallas has been remarkably patient with Porzingis as he has recovered from a torn ACL suffered in New York. The Mavericks are empowering him with as many shots and touches as possible in an effort to help him find comfort within their offense, and have set expectations fairly low for him in the process. Dallas lost on Thursday night, but they are trying to win in the very near future, and certainly aren’t looking to the past. 

“I’m not here to win them over now,” Porzingis said of the Knicks fans. “It is what it is. I understand where they’re coming from. What happened happened in the past, it’s in the past. I’m on a new team now and I just want to win games with my team now.” 

Ironically, it is an approach New York could never take with Porzingis. Destined to be the team’s savior from the moment he stepped onto an NBA court, the Knicks attempted to microwave a contender around him with several questionable veteran additions. Perhaps the Knicks could have found a Doncic-like player for him to lean on in his recovery, but they traded him to Dallas in an effort to create the cap space to sign that player in the first place. Their record is a constant reminder of that failure. 

Despite an ugly 0-2 record against the lowly Knicks, the Mavericks are sitting at 6-5 and are currently among the top eight in the Western Conference. The 3-9 Knicks are mired at the bottom of the East, and unlike Porzingis, their immediate prospects don’t figure to improve with time. They won the battle, but Porzingis, on a Dallas team that is developing him slowly but properly, seems to be winning the war. 

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