Beasley comes off bench to lift Knicks over Celtics
NEW YORK — Kristaps Porzingis was back in action, and the “MVP!” chants rained down.
Only they were not for Porzingis on Thursday night in his first action after missing two games with a sore knee.
No, Porzingis had arguably his worst game as a pro against the Boston Celtics in a 102-93 Knicks victory, their fifth win in six games.
Instead, it was hot-scoring reserve forward Michael Beasley, the former No. 2 pick, the once-jettisoned problem child, who felt the love from the Madison Square Garden crowd.
Beasley had 32 points, including 28 in the final 18 minutes, and 12 rebounds to lead the Knicks to a win over their Atlantic Division foes, who have lost five of nine after starting the season 22-4.
“I’m just here for the team,” Beasley said. “Whatever they need, whenever they need it. Scoring, rebounding, defense, just trying my best. As humbly as I can say it, I just feel like every shot that I shoot is going in.”
Kyrie Irving scored 32 points and rookie Jayson Tatum had 17 to lead the Celtics, who dropped consecutive games for the first time this season. Boston was without the services of starter Jaylen Brown, their top pick last season, who was sidelined with Achilles tendon soreness.
Porzingis, who has missed six games this season, shot 0-for-11 from the field in his return. Porzingis missed all of his shots in the first half and did not attempt a field goal in the third quarter, settling for a lone free throw for his only point of the game with 9:42 left in the third.
“Thanks to me, the game was close. I kept it close,” Porzingis said. “Otherwise, I thought we should have won by a bigger difference. If I had a better game and would have made some shots in the first half. Second half, I came out and tried to make the right play, couple of turnovers, missed shots, and I couldn’t find my rhythm. Michael Beasley had my back tonight.”
The Knicks (17-14), who have won five of six, went on a 15-6 run in the fourth quarter to take control of what had been a back-and-forth game. Beasley scored nine of his points during the run and finished with 18 in the fourth quarter alone. Beasley has scored 84 points in the Knicks’ past three games, the biggest scoring output for the former No. 2 pick in years.
“He made a bunch of tough shots; credit to him,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game. “He got up and raised up over guys, whether it was Semi (Ojeyele), Al (Horford), Marcus (Smart) — whoever was on him, he just got into that rhythm and he’s a tremendous individual scorer when he gets going like that.”
For much of the game, neither team could muster any offense as they combined to shoot 33.7 percent in the first half and 41.8 percent for the game. New York shot 45.6 percent from the field and Boston shot 38.4 percent.
Despite Porzingis’ shooting woes, the Knicks jumped out to a 14-point lead less than eight minutes into the game as Boston started 3 of 13 from the field.
Enes Kanter had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, and Jarrett Jack and Courtney Lee each added 12.
“You make it as tough as you can, and sometimes guys make baskets,” Stevens said. “That was the case tonight. I thought we played really hard, thought we competed. We missed a lot of offensive opportunities, but defensively we were locked in.”
New York led by 10 after the first quarter and by 12 one play into the second quarter on a Frank Ntilikina steal-and-breakaway-dunk. The Celtics quickly chopped into the lead, though, cutting it to four after an 8-0 run. New York built the lead back up to double-digits with a 6-0 run but Boston eventually brought it to within two late in the quarter before Kanter’s put-back dunk as the first half expired.
NOTES: New York C Enes Kanter recorded his 13th double-double of the season, which ranks in the top 20 in the NBA. ... New York heads to Detroit on Friday before returning to Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day for a noon ET matchup with Philadelphia. ... The Knicks are 15-5 at home and 2-9 on the road. ... Boston returns home to face the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.