Kristaps Porzingis’ shot was a bit off again and he failed to reach the 30-point mark for the fourth straight game, but it wasn’t a night when the Knicks needed him to carry them.
Porzingis got plenty of help in a game the Knicks led by 26 points in the fourth quarter. They cruised to a 107-85 victory over the Clippers on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, bouncing back from their worst loss of the season Friday in Toronto. The Knicks recorded a season-best total for points allowed in handing the Clippers their ninth straight loss.
Porzingis led six Knicks in double figures with 25 points and seven rebounds. He shot only 7-for-20 and was 2-for-7 on three-pointers but had two blocks and two steals and used his length to frustrate Blake Griffin, who noticed a big change in him.
“He’s just more aggressive,” said Griffin (21 points) after shooting 6-for-18 and fouling out. “He’s trying to dominate in most of the areas of the game. There were times his first couple of years when he was a little more hesitant. I think now he’s fully embraced that.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers called Porzingis “a beast” and said, “He’s going to keep getting better and better. And that’s going to be scarier for all of us.”
For the Knicks to continue to grow, they’re going to need more than Porzingis, and they got it. They displayed a much more balanced performance and showed maturity by continuing to apply pressure on the Clippers (5-11).
The Knicks led by 17 in the third quarter but nearly squandered the cushion, allowing the Clippers to get within two. But they regained control with a 24-4 run over the third and fourth quarters and built a 90-68 lead with 9:55 to go. The Clippers didn’t get it under 16 the rest of the way and scored only 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“They’re struggling, but we talked about it before the game: We cannot relax,” Enes Kanter said. “We can’t worry about what their record is, whatever. We’re just going to go out there and play our basketball, just worry about us.”
Doug McDermott gave the Knicks a big lift off the bench, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the second half. Tim Hardaway Jr., who played despite soreness in his left foot, had 13 points and five assists.
Kanter added 12 points and 16 rebounds. Jarrett Jack had a solid game at the point with 11 points and seven assists in 25 minutes. Courtney Lee had 10 points.
Barker: Clippers fall while Knicks riseClippers coach Doc Rivers never imagined his team would be this troubled, nor did he imagine the Knicks would be playing this well.
“That’s great. When guys are involved, guys are feeling [good about] themselves,” Porzingis said.
The Clippers played like a team that has had trouble finding a way to win. They shot 37.5 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers. “They were awful,” Rivers said of his starters.
A big factor for the Knicks was the way Porzingis and Kanter outplayed Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (10 points, nine rebounds). The Knicks’ two big men met the challenge of playing physically against the Clippers’ two frontcourt players. Griffin’s frustration was obvious. He picked up a technical foul before fouling out.
“We know the length really bothered him,” Kanter said. “KP did an unbelievable job of just stopping him. He used his length, blocked his shots. I think he was frustrated.”
The Knicks’ unexpected start to the season has their fans hoping they can end a four-year playoff drought, but coach Jeff Hornacek said the focus should be on continuing to grow together.
“Sometimes there’s that [playoff] talk, but we have to emphasize to the guys that’s not really a concern, especially this early in the season,” he said before the game. “And it shouldn’t be in game 75. It should be about building a foundation, see if we can get better. It’s not going to get better immediately, but we can take a couple steps forward and maybe have a step backward, but going in that direction, you’ll win enough games. So I think it’s more about what we’re trying to do as a team, how we want to establish the culture here and how we want to play and not worry so much about the wins and losses.”