NEW YORK — It didn’t take long for Kristaps Porzingis to make his presence felt on his new team.
Porzingis finished with 30 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocked shots – including nine straight points to give Boston the lead for good late in the fourth quarter – to lead the Celtics to a 108-104 victory over the New York Knicks in the Madison Square. Garden Wednesday evening.
“It was awesome,” Porzingis said with a very wide smile when asked how it felt to beat his old team in its first game against his new one. “It’s been awesome, I’m not going to lie. Playing here at the Garden is always special as a home team, obviously, but also on the road here, it’s really fun.
“At one point it got really crazy when the fans got involved and came back. But we stayed calm, we stayed calm and we were able to finish the game.
“Overall, it’s a fun game to play, that’s for sure.”
It was a dream debut for Porzingis, as he set a franchise record for most points in his Celtics debut, surpassing Dominique Wilkins’ 25 in 1994.
He also showed his versatility. He paced Boston in both 3s, hitting 5 of the Celtics 12, while also leading the team with a 9-of-10 performance from the free throw line. He blocked four shots, altered several others and finished with a score of plus-13 in 38 minutes.
“He has an innate ability to put two on the ball, that they’re trying to jump and tack, that they’re trying to blitz him, and so when he gets space, he’s a magnet,” said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla. . “So we’ve got to continue to get better at our spacing, get better at our 2-on-1 reads, and they’re going to be different than they were at times last year with him on the field. But, because of him , we can do more post-ups like we’ve been doing throughout the streak and really change the spacing of the game.”
The Celtics needed all the greatness from Porzingis after falling into a 99-93 hole with 4:10 left on an unfortunate 35 second from Jaylen Brown, who made two bad passes – one in half-court that was aimed directly at Knicks guard Jalen. Brunson and another to no one in particular on an inbounds pass that followed after a 3-pointer from Julius Randle. Brown also fouled Quentin Grimes on a successful triple.
That turned what had been a tie score into a six-point deficit, sending the Garden crowd into a frenzy and leaving the Knicks seemingly ready to beat Boston on national television here for the second time in three seasons.
Instead, Boston went on a 13-3 run, thanks to Porzingis, who made six free throws sandwiched around a huge 3-pointer from the right wing that put the Celtics ahead for good at 89 seconds from the end.
“It was huge,” Jayson Tatum said. “For us to call that timeout immediately and figure it out. … I think we played at the right time. Obviously getting the bonus helped. But rebounding kind of hurt us, allowing them to having second and third chance opportunities. So once we started making stops, giving them a chance, we were in control.
“We knew we wanted to flee, we knew who we were trying to attack and we executed.”
It was also the Celtics debut for Jrue Holiday, who Boston acquired on the eve of training camp just days after Holiday was shipped to the Portland Trail Blazers in a blockbuster deal for Damian Lillard. And although it was a quiet night offensively for Holiday — he finished with nine points, four rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 34 minutes — he contributed to a ferocious defensive effort by Boston that kept Knicks stars Randle and Brunson went 11-for-43 on shots, including 5-for-27 on 2-pointers.
The Knicks shot a stunning 18-for-41 (43.9%) from 3-point range — including 13-for-20 on open triples, according to ESPN Stats & Information — but just 18-for-56 (32.1%). . from inside the arc. Boston, meanwhile, shot 12 of 39 from 3 — including 3 of 15 in the open, according to SIG, and 6 of 25 after a red-hot first quarter — but 25 of 38 (65.7). %) over 2s.
Yet in front of a packed house of 19,812 at MSG – a crowd that chanted “F— Porzingis” late in the fourth quarter when he was hit with a technical foul for grabbing the center Knicks Isaiah Hartenstein in the face as he tried to gather a defensive rebound – the Celtics showed plenty of poise and composure down the stretch against a playoff-caliber opponent.
Boston prevailed by getting the kind of performance from Porzingis that prompted it to alter its roster by trading Marcus Smart for acquisition in June.
“He obviously makes us even more dynamic with his size, his ability to shoot and play off the dribble,” said Tatum, who led Boston with 34 points and 11 rebounds. “When they double me late, make the right play, find an open man. Obviously he can shoot from anywhere.
“I mean, he’s really good. He’s really, really good. We’re lucky to have him.”