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Kristaps Porzingis plays OK in first game at MSG

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis gets off

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis gets off a shot against Paschoalotto/Bauru in the second quarter of their NBA exhibition game at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 7, 2015. Credit: Ray Stubblebine

Kristaps Porzingis was on the floor 21/2 hours before his NBA preseason debut, taking his first shots ever inside Madison Square Garden.

"My shot is good," Porzingis said before the game.

That seems to be the scouting report. But it took a while before Porzingis hit one.

He started at power forward Wednesday night and missed his first two shots before draining a three-pointer from straightaway with 2:06 left in the first half in the Knicks' 100-81 win over the Brazilian team Bauru.

Porzingis, whom the Knicks took with the No. 4 pick in the draft, ended up 2-for-6 with seven points two rebounds and one block in 21 minutes. The 7-3 Latvian is a work-in-progress. But he should be able to stretch the floor with his shooting. He was 2-for-3 from three. "I didn't like how I started," Porzingis said. "I was anxious at the beginning, didn't start off good. Later on I just focused and I made some shots and I was more active on defense.

"I wasn't nervous. It was my first time playing in MSG. I just wanted to show everybody what I can do. That was in my head. I had to relax a little bit."

The Knicks' other rookie, Jerian Grant, started fast, registering six points and four assists in the first half. Grant looked very comfortable running the offense and was aggressive going to the basket. But he had just two points and no assists after halftime.

Carmelo Anthony was sharp in his first game since undergoing left knee surgery in February. Anthony, who last played in the All-Star Game at the Garden, shot 8-for-10 with 17 points in 20 minutes.

New Knick and Queens product Kyle O'Quinn was 5 of 7 with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and one rejection.

This wasn't real NBA competition, but the Knicks are deeper and should be better than last year's franchise-worst 17-65 team. They're deeper with versatile players, but no stars beyond Anthony.

But Porzingis is the intriguing prospect who the Knicks hope develops into the type of talent team officials have been touting. Associate head coach Kurt Rambis said Porzingis could become a combination of Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol. But Rambis cautioned "probably all of it won't come out for three, four, five years."

Porzingis doesn't doubt he will prove himself. He's a mature 20-year-old who understands the expectations and is driven to meet them.

"I think playing in New York, there's a lot of pressure obviously," Porzingis said. "But me, and a lot of Europeans -- Sasha is the same way -- we love the pressure. If you can make it here you can make it anywhere."

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