The notion that Kristaps Porzingis doesn’t have enough offensive help on the Knicks’ roster was obliterated in a stunning second-half turnaround by his teammates on Wednesday night.
And the starved fans at Madison Square Garden raucously showed their gratitude and elation over the team-wide effort at both ends of the court on the night before Thanksgiving.
Porzingis netted only two free throws during an absurd 41-10 third-quarter eruption by the Knicks, who overcame another double-digit deficit and held on for an energetic 108-100 victory over Toronto on Thursday night at MSG.
Tim Hardaway Jr. pumped in 12 of his career-high 38 points in the third quarter domination, which featured 28 consecutive points by the Knicks at one point and a 32-3 sprint to open the session. Porzingis finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds and Courtney Lee added 15 as the resurgent Knicks (10-7) won for the seventh time already this season after trailing by at least 10 points.
The Raptors (11-6) had dropped a 23-point pounding on Jeff Hornacek’s squad on Friday night in Toronto, but the Knicks have now won nine of their last 11 at the Garden since a tight loss to Detroit in the home opener in October.
“I like their team,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said about the Knicks before the game. “I think they have some talented big guys. (Enes) Kanter’s a handful. He’s one of the top offensive rebounders in the league. Good mixture with Jarrett Jack, who’s a veteran. Courtney Lee, he’s a solid NBA scorer. So they’ve got a nice team. They’ve had a lot of home games, and they’re a different team at home. They play with a lot of confidence and a lot of toughness at home, moreso than on the road.”
Casey went on to compare Kanter to another famed offensive rebounder, Dennis Rodman, and he referred to Jack as a “tough guy and a natural leader.”
Still, Porzingis generally must be the focal point for opposing defenses, and Toronto did a nice job on the 7-foot-3 Latvian on Friday, holding him to 13 points on 3-for-13 shooting.
“He’s a tough cover. He’s 7-plus in size and length,” Casey said. “You put a small guy on him he just rises right over the top of him. You put a big on him he uses his speed and quickness to get around him so I think you have to give him different looks. Slowed him a little bit, not a lot….We switched some with him and that gave him a different look so trying to keep him off balance is what we tried to do.”
Porzingis netted 10 in Wednesday’s first half, but the Knicks still trailed by 11 at intermission, despite 19 points (including three three-pointers) from Hardaway through two quarters.
Porzingis essentially served as a decoy and barely added to his scoring total as the other Knick starters came out of halftime sizzling, embarking on a frenetic surge of 28 straight points to seize an 80-62 lead with less than three minutes left in the quarter.
Defensively, the Knicks also hounded the Raptors into an 0-for-13 start from the floor — until CJ Miles finally nailed a three with 2:25 remaining — and eight turnovers overall in the period.
The Knicks carried their biggest lead, 89-69, into the fourth, only to allow the Raptors a 12-0 spurt early in the final quarter to close the lead to six with 6:20 to go.
Porzingis buried the next five points – an and-one conversion and a short baseline jumper — to push the cushion back to 99-88 and Toronto never drew closer than six thereafter. Hardaway’s late dunk gave him 38 points, exceeding his previous career-high by two.