DALLAS – Kristaps Porzingis shone. The Knicks shone brighter, especially Porzingis' best friend from his former team, Frank Ntilikina.
Perhaps this mammoth 106-102 Knicks victory in Friday night's Porzingis Bowl against the Mavericks tastes a little bittersweet. How good their ex-franchise player Porzingis looked in defeat through three-plus quarters before fouling out.
But the Knicks needed this one badly.
"This is a huge confidence builder," coach David Fizdale said. "We needed to see the fruits of our labor."
As much as Porzingis piled on the points, finishing with 28, Dallas looked like it had just two players on the squad. The Porzingis-Luka Doncic Show combined for 67 points, but that wasn't enough.
Porzingis-Doncic is going to be a spectacular scoring duo, but Porzingis-Ntilikina (both were Knicks lottery picks) could have been a decent all -around Euro pair in the Eastern Conference in another universe. That's why Friday comes with a sour aftertaste.
Ntilikina has been getting better every game and Friday was probably the best out of his NBA career. He was brilliant from beyond the 3-point line and in hounding Doncic on defense, especially late.
"Fantastic," Fizdale said. "Luka is a nightmare. Frank made it hard. ''
Maybe the Knicks need to get Dennis Smith Jr. in the Porzingis trade after all. Ntilikina showed a soft touch and buried 4 of 5 from 3-point range in a 1
"Frank looked great," said Porzingis, who keeps in touch with the Frenchman . “I know I've been putting in work. I know his work ethic and mindset. Be happy to see him play and play well. It shows the things capable of doing. He was playing defensively the whole time, but offensively tonight he got going. Good to see him finally show what he is capable of. It sucks it was against us today. ''
Porzingis's look looked bad in his eighth game back from a 20-month absence. He scored in a lot of ways, but sputtered in the final 10 minutes, finishing 1 of 5 in the fourth quarter. Porzingis entered the game the worst on the Mavericks in plus-minus and complaining about his slow progression.
"I felt good today," Porzingis said. "What I did was I just tried to relax out there and let the game come to me and take good shots, be aggressive but relaxed at the same time. These have been overthinking these last few games. In the field more relaxed than any game. ''
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 But primary defender Marcus Morris rose up in the fourth quarter. He scored 29 points and went 4-for-8 from 3-point range.
"He's our leader," Fizdale said. "We follow him."
Julius Randle was a force (19 points) and got a key offensive rebound with 30 seconds left, while Bobby Portis showed life off the bench.
With Smith rejoining the Knicks, but watching from the team hotel, Ntilikina had no fear Friday. He went right at the 7-foot-3 Porzingis, flew for a right-handed dunk, showing rare hops and fire. Porzingis blocked it, a foul was whistled, then overturned. All ball. Still, it was an impressive scene for both Knicks lottery picks.
Delivering this win could become meaningful.
"I think every game is really important to us," Ntilikina said. "Especially right now. We need wins. ”
Even with the Knicks up 61-57 at halftime, it was hard not to notice how silky-smooth Porzingis looked like a shotmaker.
Porzingis was hitting inside and outside and finished out the first half with 18 points in 16 minutes – seven baskets on 12 attempts. But the Knicks led 61-57, then built an 11-point lead late in the third quarter and held strong in the fourth for a change while Porzingis faded.
In one lousy late sequence for Porzingis, the Latvian threw up an airball , then fouled Morris from the 3-point line.
Porzingis got a loud ovation during warmups, but it will be nothing compared to the boos he will receive next week at the Garden for having asked to be traded out of New York.
"All the time," Morris said when asked if he had been in the players' ears. “What have we got, 74 games left? Still unheard of. ”
Still, this game should be looked at as a night to turn around the Knicks' flagging momentum and erase the bad vibes of trading Porzingis.
The Knicks have taken a ton of heat for not making Porzingis and his headstrong brother / agent, Janis, happier.
If there ever was a best time to take back the season, though, Friday it was.