As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Bobby Portis did his best Kyrie Irving impersonation, dribbling playfully as the Madison Square Garden crowd cheered, half in celebration and maybe half in relief.
Moments earlier, the crowd was united in voice with a clear message. Portis drained a three-pointer from the left corner with 1:47 to play to give the Knicks their first lead, and when he hit another from the right corner to help secure a 105-98 win over the Chicago Bulls — their first victory in four games this season — the crowd chanted “Bob-by Por-tis!” over and over.
Some players might be accustomed to that and act as if they didn’t hear it. Portis isn’t one of them. When asked about it afterward, he didn’t hide his emotion.
“It’s kind of hard not to,” said Portis, who had 28 points and 11 rebounds in a game in which the Knicks trailed by 18 after a quarter. “19,000 fans, man. It’s fun when they call your name. That’s actually the first time that’s ever happened.”
The first time ever?
“When I was in high school and college, it was different,’’ he said. “When I got to the pros, it was never about me. I’ve always been a role player type of guy. Just a team mentality type of guy. So to hear that for the first time was fun.”
The entire ending was fun for the Knicks, who got 19 points, 15 rebounds and five assists from RJ Barrett. The first 45 minutes, not so much.
When the Knicks pulled even on Portis’ three-pointer with 6:09 remaining, he turned and stared down his former team’s bench. While he insisted there are no hard feelings, he did take a little pride in hitting the shot.
The Bulls then ran off eight straight points, but the Knicks scored the final 15 points of the game.
With less than two minutes left, Julius Randle got the ball in the lane, where he’d been stripped and stopped so many times, and this time he kicked it out to Portis in the corner. Portis faked a defender flying by and hit a three-pointer.
After a miss by the Bulls, Randle got the ball in the middle and this time found Portis in the opposite corner for another three-pointer, pushing the lead to five with 1:09 remaining.
“We’ve just been waiting for him,” coach David Fizdale said of Portis. “He’s been playing a little tight, trying to be perfect. We talked a lot about it and I said, ‘Just keep letting that thing fly and keep attacking and being yourself. Show your passion for it. Don’t hold back.’ Tonight he really unleashed it.
"That is a game that he had there. But I think a lot of it, too, was Julius was trusting. Julius found him a lot of times in those corners making those easy plays. It’s a team effort.”
It took some persistence to put the ball in the hands of Randle (13 points, 14 rebounds). After the Knicks tied it, he had the ball under the basket, and Tomas Satoransky ripped it from his hands for Randle’s seventh turnover of the game and 18th in the last three games.
“We watched a ton of film with Julius,” Fizdale said. “We put him in a ton of situations in practice so he can start seeing those outlets when people are really loading into him. He’s going to get better and better because his agenda is pure. I always feel like guys improve when they’re about the team.
“How many times you gonna run your head against a wall? He finally said, ‘Wait a minute. I’m running into traffic right now. I’ve just got to move the ball. It’s not going to be me tonight.’ That’s a big step for him to do that.”
Notes & quotes: The Knicks lost Elfrid Payton (three points, no assists) in the third quarter to a sore right hamstring. Frank Ntilikina, getting his first extended minutes of the season, shot 0-for-6 and was scoreless with two assists.
Al Bianchi, who was the Knicks’ general manager from 1987-91, orchestrated the trade for Charles Oakley and signed John Starks, died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 87.