Kristaps Porzingis hustled back on defense to emphatically swat Josh Jackson’s layup in transition, then raced upcourt, took Jarrett Jack’s bounce pass, threw it down one-handed with authority and was fouled. The Garden erupted with a deafening roar, the loudest it’s been in years.
It was far louder than the buzz Porzingis’ brother Janis created in his interview with a Latvian magazine that made it sound as if Kristaps signing a long-term extension with the Knicks wasn’t a slam dunk. Porzingis said before the game that he loves New York, then let New York shower love on him.
He played brilliantly Friday night, scoring 37 points to lead the Knicks to a 120-107 victory over the Suns. It was his sixth game of at least 30 points and the Knicks’ fourth win in their last five games.
“I loved that play,” Porzingis said of a sequence that will be shown on highlight tapes over and over. “Honestly, just the energy that was in the Garden at that moment, it was unbelievable. I had to calm myself down to knock down the free throw.”
Porzingis, who missed practice Thursday with a stomach virus, looked perfectly healthy. He shot 13-for-22, added seven rebounds and blocked three shots.
Had Porzingis not been pulled from the game with 2:12 left and the Knicks up 16, he could have set a career high for the second time in three games. He established it Monday when he scored 38 against the Nuggets. As he went to the bench Friday, he got a standing ovation from the fans and his teammates.
“I’m getting better as a player,” Porzingis said. “I can feel that. I’m growing as a player and I think that’s helping the team.”
Indeed. The Knicks are a surprising 4-4 and Porzingis is drawing raves from inside his locker room and from opponents.
“Porzingis is special,” former Knick Tyson Chandler said. “He has a chance to be the best player in this league. 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.”
Knicks forward Michael Beasley said, “That guy’s as good as they come.”
The Knicks built a 21-point lead in the second quarter, the fourth time in the last five games that they have led by at least 21. They shot 51.7 percent from the field and were ahead for the last 41:16 of the game.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points and Enes Kanter finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Doug McDermott had 12 points, including two on an emphatic reverse dunk, and Beasley scored 11 off the bench, nine coming in a 95-second stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters.
Devin Booker led the Suns (4-5) with 34 points.
After leading by 15 at the half, the Knicks let the Suns back into the game in the third. Chandler scored eight points in the first 3:38, including six straight during a 16-7 run that made it 72-66.
The Knicks dominated the rest of the quarter, outscoring the Suns 20-10 in the last 7:37 and opening a 92-76 lead.
“We’re doing a really good job of communicating, trusting each other, and we’re having fun,” Kanter said. “If somebody makes an unbelievable play, the whole bench gets up. It’s just going to get better and better and better.”