Kristaps Porzingis had the Garden buzzing, the Knicks bouncing all over the floor and Joakim Noah sprinting off the bench and to halfcourt to give his teammate a running chest bump after a three-pointer.
Porzingis put on a show Wednesday night. He poured in a career-high 35 points to lead the Knicks to a 105-102 victory over the Pistons at the Garden. Porzingis was serenaded with loud chants of “M-V-P” in the fourth quarter.
“He’s growing day by day, and not just in size, but his ability to play,” Jeff Hornacek said. “You see the whole package tonight. I thought he was great.”
As Phil Jackson is embroiled in controversy for using the word “posse” in reference to LeBron James’ business partner, the player he was criticized for selecting in the 2015 NBA Draft continues to make the Knicks president look good.
Porzingis is considered the future of the Knicks, but he’s showing he might be their best player right now.
“He’s just scratching the surface of what he’s going to become,” Hornacek said. “He’s going to be fun to watch.”
Porzingis’ full repertoire was on display as the second-year big man scored from inside and out, with dunks and from deep to help the Knicks improve to 5-6.
Porzingis, who had 29 points twice as a rookie, shot 13-for-22, was 3-for-7 from three and had seven rebounds.
“Brilliant. Brilliant,” Carmelo Anthony said. “He put us on his back tonight and that’s something that I’m proud of.”
“He’s going out here scoring 30 and he really doesn’t know the NBA yet,” Derrick Rose said. “That’s scary.
Everything Porzingis did was cheered, every rebound, whenever he got the ball. After a key fourth-quarter block that brought the crowd to its feet, Porzingis slapped five with a couple of courtside fans as he ran down the court.
“Too early, it’s too early,” Porzingis said of the MVP chants. “It’s the New York crowd. It’s nice. The crowd, they just went crazy and all the support we got tonight gave me so much energy. It was unbelievable.
“Shots were falling. I was just playing my game. Teammates were finding me. I got it going. It was just happening. And a lot of stuff I was working on over the summer came out, too. Some moves or something, without even thinking, just instinctively they came out. It was just coming my way.”
But the Knicks, who led by 12 midway through the fourth and 11 with 4:33 to go, had to sweat this one out. The Pistons got within 104-102 with 31.7 seconds left after back-to-back three-pointers by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith.
Anthony missed a baseline jumper, but Courtney Lee got the long rebound and passed it to Rose. He was fouled with 3.6 seconds left and made one of two to give the Knicks a three-point lead.
Out of the timeout, the Knicks’ plan was to foul before the Pistons could take a game-tying three-point shot. Caldwell-Pope got the shot off clean. It just didn’t drop.
Anthony finished with 22 points and Rose 15. Noah, who was benched in the second half of Monday’s win over Dallas, added 15 rebounds and seven points.
Caldwell-Pope led Detroit with 21. Long Island’s Tobias Harris added 19 and 10 rebounds.
Porzingis’ versatility really was on display during one third-quarter possession. He front-rimmed a three-pointer, chased down the miss, couldn’t convert inside and then dunked his second offensive rebound.
Earlier in the game, Porzingis ran the floor after a defensive stand, took a lob from Brandon Jennings (seven assists), threw it down and was fouled. Porzingis landed awkwardly, but he hopped right up with a smirk on his face and completed the three-point play.
“He’s dangerous,” Rose said. “For a second-year player in a game like that, having him just come out and play the way that he plays, it’s incredible. And to be so big, 7-3, moving the way you move, it’s kind of crazy – unique, unique player.”