Former Knicks All-Star unfazed by MSG crowd in Celtics win

Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) hangs on the rim after a dunk in the first quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis was unfazed by the New York Knicks’ hostile fanbase on draft night back in 2015. He turned jeers into cheers in his four seasons in the Big Apple. Now a member of the Celtics, Porzingis silenced the rowdy crowd at Madison Square Garden in a historic season debut that led to their 108-104 victory over the Knicks.

Knicks Fans Failed at Taking Kristaps Porzingis Out of His Game

Porzingis told Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports just how thrilling his experience playing at the Garden was, and how he did not let a late Knicks surge quell his play, saying:

“At one point it got really crazy when the fans got into it and they made the comeback. But we stayed poised, we stayed calm and we were able to finish out the game on making some big plays and some free throws. Overall, a fun game to play in, for sure.”

Porzingis had 30 points on the night. He set the Celtics record for most points scored in a debut performance. Porzingis was a force on both ends, blocking four shots and making his presence felt in the paint and out on the perimeter.

He was huge for the Celtics down the stretch, nailing two critical three-pointers with under four minutes to go to etch into the Knicks’ short-lived lead and put the Celtics in the win column.

After a year of obscurity playing for the Washington Wizards, Porzingis translated his volume numbers into winning play and an early look at the Celtics shows a team having upgraded in a major way with him and Jrue Holiday.

Though Knicks fans are known for being obnoxious, it tends to backfire. No arena has been more synonymous with big-game performances from road players than MSG for several decades. Porzingis added himself to a long list of players including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Demar DeRozan that have spoiled the MSG crowd’s parade in recent years.

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Has Porzingis Turned Over a New Leaf?

Porzingis had been criticized for his lack of reliability late in games as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. He settled for rushed three-pointers and did not replicate the tenacity he put on display as a member of the Knicks. Porzingis took on much of the blame for their back-to-back first-round losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and his play even caused a rift between him and Luka Doncic.

That looked like ancient history as the Latvian center played with assertiveness and efficiency. His efforts rubbed off on his teammates. Collectively, they held both Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle to under 30 percent shooting from the floor.

The Knicks were up-and-down from start to finish and did not execute at the level expected of them. Randle failed to set his feet and shoot with confidence on many of his attempts and the Knicks were either stripped or bothered when attacking the rim. They’ll look to get it right tomorrow night against the Atlanta Hawks in the first of a three-game road trip.