Kristaps Porzingis was welcomed with thunderous boos when New York Knicks drafted the Latvian teenager ahead of Emmanuel Mudiay, Justise Winslow and other promising rookies.
That was in June. Now, the entire city of New York is rejoicing that Knicks President Phil Jackson had the foresight to gamble with Porzingis.
On Tuesday night, Porzingis had his coming out party. He scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Knicks beat the Charlotte Hornets 102-94, improving to a respectable 6-6 record. “It was a great win for us. I tried to help the team any way I could. Carmelo, as always, was making things easy for everyone,” the Rookie Of The Year candidate said after the victory.
Barely a week before, Porzingis missed defeating the Hornets with a buzzer-beating three-pointer. But Porzingis couldn’t be denied by Hornets defenders this time around. In some ways, it was redemption for Porzingis.
The turning point came in the fourth quarter when Porzingis collected an offensive rebound and completed a 3-point play to put the Knicks ahead 93-81. The lanky 7-foot-3 forward evoked loud chants of “Por-zing-is! Por-zing-is!” at Madison Square Garden as the Knicks outscored Hornets 56-46 in the final two quarters. Porzingis scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half alone (Watch video highlights below).
The Knicks had Arron Afflalo back in the starting unit. Afflalo had 16 points and 3 assists while superstar Carmelo Anthony added 18 points and 11 rebounds.
For the Hornets, Kemba Walker scored a season-high 31 points. Nicolas Batum, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, had a forgettable outing with only one basket and four points.
Jeremy Lin had 13 points and 3 assists off the bench while Jeremy Lamb and Spencer Hawes added 12 and 14 points respectively. The Hornets stumbled to a 5-6 record.
The Hornets had won their four previous match-ups against Knicks.
The Knicks now travel to Oklahoma City for a clash with the Thunder on Friday. Charlotte return home to host the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow.