Loud “M-V-P” chants filled Madison Square Garden several times and they weren’t directed at Kristaps Porzingis. Michael Beasley drew them on a night that Porzingis played his worst game as a pro.
Porzingis was back from a two-game absence because of a sore left knee, but he was invisible. He missed all 11 shots he took, scored just one point and didn’t play the final 17:20.
On most nights that would mean a loss for the Knicks, especially against the East-leading Celtics. But Beasley carried the Knicks to a 102-93 victory over Boston with a scintillating performance that had the Garden chanting his name and cheering wildly Thursday night.
Beasley scored a season-high 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to spark the Knicks’ best victory of the season. He had 28 points in the last 16:25 of the game. It was a remarkable performance as Beasley proved to be unstoppable with his full offensive arsenal on display.
He shot 11-for-15 in the second half and led the Knicks, who are still without Tim Hardaway Jr., to their most impressive victory of the season.
“I’m just out here doing what I got to do,” the ultra-confident Beasley said.
When he was asked when he started feeling he had the hot hand, Beasley said, “January 9th, 1989,” the day he was born.
“I’m just here for the team. Whatever they need, whenever they need, scoring, rebounding, defense, trying my best. As humbly as I can say it I just feel every shot I shoot is going in. Every shot I miss I’m mad.”
The Knicks (17-14) got big performances from several other players to avenge a 21-point loss to the Celtics in the third game of the season.
Enes Kanter finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. But their bench played huge as Jeff Hornacek stuck with Frank Ntilikina, Ron Baker, Doug McDermott, Beasley and Kyle O’Quinn when the game was on the line.
Ntilikina and McDermott hit huge back-to-back three-pointers in crunch time, and O’Quinn played big inside defensively.
Hornacek said he thought about bringing the starters back, but that group was getting the job done on both ends. The Knicks were down 62-53 when Beasley replaced Porzingis with 5:20 left in the third. He scored 25 points during a 38-19 stretch that put the Knicks on top 91-81 with 3:55 left.
“Michael got hot and kind of took over offensively out there and we just rode him,” Hornacek said. “He was the second pick in the draft years ago and he’s talented and you saw it tonight.”
Since no starter played more than 28 minutes, they should be rested when the Knicks complete a back-to-back Friday at Detroit.
Porzingis said his knee wasn’t an issue. He just looked rusty and out of sync. The Celtics usually play him physically and make things difficult for him.
But Porzingis missed open looks and forced some shots, as he was trying to get one of his attempts to drop. He didn’t attempt a field goal in the second half. His only point came on a foul shot with 9:42 left in the third.
“I just couldn’t find my rhythm,” Porzingis said. “Michael Beasley had my back tonight.”
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics (26-9) with 32 points. Jayson Tatum added 17.
The Knicks led by 14 in the first quarter, but the Celtics seemed to take control of the game behind a three-point barrage in the third quarter. They hit five of six three-pointers to open the third. Beasley changed things quickly.
Beasley started the past two games in place of Porzingis, and scored 53 points. A natural scorer, he picked up right where he left off when his number was called Thursday.
He scored 10 of the Knicks’ last 15 points in the third quarter. Beasley also had 11 consecutive points in the fourth after the Celtics tied the score at 75.
Ntilikina and McDermott drained back-to-back three-pointers to give the Knicks a 97-86 cushion with 2:19 remaining. But the Celtics closed to 97-91 after two Tatum foul shots with 1:28 left.
In need of a basket, the Knicks went to Beasley and he delivered again, scoring over Al Horford with 1:05 to go to put the Knicks up eight.
Later, with the Knicks up six, the Celtics missed and Beasley rebounded it. He was fouled with 27.5 seconds left and made 1 of 2 from the line. The game ended with Beasley grabbing his 12th rebound. He just stood under the defensive basket holding the ball with one hand as the Garden cheered.
“It feels great, man,” Beasley said. “But it doesn’t stop here. The night is over. It’s on to the next one like this one never happened. Definitely felt great. Especially because it’s a win. They’re a great team so we knew they were going to fight till the last second. But it felt awesome. It felt really good.”