The Knicks celebrated Kristaps Porzingis’ first career Eastern Conference player of the week award with a montage of highlights during the early minutes of Tuesday night’s game against the Hornets at the Garden.
And what a week it was! Porzingis was shown both swooping and hooping as he led the Knicks to three victories in four games.
On Tuesday, Porzingis added more moments to the highlight reel and notched a place in the franchise record book as he scored 28 and hit the biggest buckets in a comeback 118-113 victory over the Hornets.
The Knicks (6-4) have won three in a row and six of seven. They play at Orlando on Wednesday.
“We’re going in the right direction,” Lance Thomas said.
Porzingis had only two points in the second half before hitting a pair of free throws to tie the game with 2:32 left and then a three-pointer less than a minute later to give the Knicks their first lead since the first quarter at 114-111.
After the Hornets closed to within one on a pair of free throws, Porzingis drove the lane and hit a scoop shot as the clock shot wound down to make it 116-113 with 11 seconds left. Cue the “MVP” chants at the Garden.
“That shot there was — gosh — just another sign of the greatness that he’s becoming,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He didn’t get panicked. He knew exactly what was on the shot clock. That’s that internal clock. He probably glanced up and saw four seconds and said, ‘I know I can get there in four seconds.’ ”
Courtney Lee sealed the win with a pair of free throws.
On Sunday, Porzingis scored a career-high 40 as the Knicks came back from a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Pacers. On Tuesday, the Knicks trailed by 13 in the third quarter and 11 entering the fourth, but they outscored Charlotte 33-19 in the final quarter.
Kyle O’Quinn admitted the Knicks thought “here we go again.”
“But in a positive way,” he said. “Like we’ve been here before. We can do it again. Indiana was a great win. A lot of us felt that was one of the best team wins we’ve ever been a part of. It was one of mine. We weren’t fazed going into the fourth today.”
Porzingis passed Bernard King (who was in the house) to become the most prolific Knicks scorer ever in the first 10 games of a season. Porzingis has scored 300 points as the Knicks have started 6-4. King scored 298 points in the first 10 games of the 1984-’85 season.
Doug McDermott had 20 points off the bench, including 10 in the fourth. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 19, Enes Kanter had 14, O’Quinn had 12 (eight in the fourth) and Thomas added 10.
Dwight Howard, Kemba Walker and Malik Monk all scored 21 points for the Hornets (5-6).
Porzingis was sitting as the Knicks cut a 13-point, third-quarter deficit to four with 6:27 left in the fourth. The Hornets immediately increased the lead to nine after Porzingis re-entered the game, but the Knicks got it back down to 111-109 on a McDermott three-pointer with just over three minutes to go.
Porzingis’ highlights from Tuesday included one sequence in which he blocked Charlotte’s Cody Zeller three times in a row. But the third one didn’t count because of a foul on O’Quinn. Still, the Garden crowd loved it and counted out the blocks (“one!” “two!” “three!”) as they were replayed on the big board.
But the best highlight for Porzingis was the final score.
“It’s us playing as a team and playing defense,” he said. “I think we have hard-working guys that want to win. You can tell these last couple games. We’re playing our hearts out.”