DALLAS – It will never lead them to the Promised Land, but the Knicks will always have Friday night.
Taking their first shot at Kristaps Porzingis after committing a dirty divorce and trading their former lottery to the Mavericks in January, the Knicks got the first laugh and snapped a losing four-game line with a 106-102 victory at American Airlines Center .
The Knicks (2-7) ended the night on top with Porzingis looking from the bench and having fouled out after posting 28 points and nine rebounds.
Frank Ntilikina didn't do the scary stats that Porzingis and his new partner in crime, Luka Doncic, did, but he played in what may have been the best night of his career, with 1
Marcus Morris (29 points, nine rebounds) broke a 92-92 tie with five straight points before Taj Gibson and Julius Randle extended the lead to 101-92 with less than two minutes remaining.  Mavericks (5-3) closed within 103-99 before RJ Barrett missed a couple of free throws, but Julius Randle collected the recovery, drew a penalty from Porzingis – his sixth and ended his night with 30 seconds remaining – and struck both free throws for the 105-99 advantage.
Former Knick Tim Hardaway Jr., part of the Porzingis trade, nailed a 3-pointer to make it 105-102 with 27.6 seconds left. But the Mavericks came empty-handed.
After playing the first 186 games of his NBA career in a Knicks uniform and looking like he was on his way to become their franchise cornerstone until he tore his ACL in February 2018, Porzingis played against them for the first time. He will make his garden return on Thursday, in what will surely be a hostile environment.
Ntilikina – one of only two Knicks (along with Damyean Dotson) left who actually played with Porzingis – also rose to the occasion. By making his fourth straight start at point guard, Ntilikina played his typically strong defense, but also caught fire on offense and shot 4-of-5 from deep. He even tried to pose for Porzingis during the second quarter. Porzingis was initially called a foul, but Mavericks challenged the call and the replay review showed that he got all the ball on the block and the call turned.
Doncic finished with a triple-double (38 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists)) in the loss.
After leading 61-57 at the break, the Knicks took their biggest lead yet late in the third quarter on back-to-back 3-points from Randle and Morris who made it 80-69. The two veteran developers – who gladly took advantage of huge locker space earmarked for much splashier-free agents after the Knicks opened it through trading with Porzingis – combined for 50 points and 17 rebounds.
Knicks greatest lead was 84 -72, but Doncic took the Mavericks back almost alone, his 8-0 run closing the gap to 84-80 at the end of the third quarter.
The Knicks came into the game and wanted to get back to the physical style they spent all summer and for the season to talk about. They had to do it without Mitchell Robinson, their shot-blocking center who sat out with a concussion he suffered on Wednesday in a loss to the Pistons.
Early on, the physical edge will still largely be missing.
After getting his least productive night at the start of the season Wednesday night against the Magic (10 points on 4-of-14 shooting and eight rebounds), Porzingis started a much better start Friday. Maverick's coach Rick Carlisle said he wanted to get him better shots, and the Knicks immediately forced, leaving Porzingis wide open to empty his other 3 in as many attempts in the opening minute for an early 12-9 lead.
But the Knicks soon pushed back, creating a 12-2 run to take a lead that grew as big as 10 points before entering the break with a 61-57 advantage.
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