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Porzingis pours in 34 to lead Knicks over Kings
NEW YORK — New York Knicks fans needn’t look further than one statistic to measure Kristaps Porzingis’ true worth to the team.
Two days after missing his first game of the year, a 13-point loss at Orlando on Wednesday, Porzingis had a plus-minus rating of positive-31 on Saturday night in a 118-91 win over the visiting Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden.
Against the Magic in the loss on Wednesday, no Knicks starter finished better than negative-10.
Porzingis had 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting against the Kings and Courtney Lee added 20 as the Knicks won for the seventh time in nine games.
“I think our guys really trust him,” New York coach Jeff Hornacek said. “They’re trying to find him. He has done a much better job in the mid-range, getting positioning on his own. Guys are getting the ball there when he needs it there. It’s not rushed, it’s not like, ‘I have to get up some shots.’”
Working brilliantly within the flow of the offense, Porzingis, who was sidelined with elbow and ankle injuries against the Magic, sparked New York in his return to the lineup.
After getting off to a slow start, Porzingis eventually poured in 15 first-quarter points, capping his outstanding quarter with a beautiful give-and-go with rookie guard Frank Ntilikina, who found Porzingis for a thunderous alley-pop dunk that gave MSG some early energy.
Behind Porzingis, the Knicks staked themselves a 32-23 first-quarter lead after trailing 13-2 just over four minutes in.
“We got off to a little bit of a rough start but we knew we had to play hard against these guys,” Hornacek said of the Kings, who entered the game on a two-game winning streak, their first of the season. “They’re young guys, they’re energetic, and I thought they had a little more movement and juice than we did early in the game.”
Sacramento trimmed New York’s lead to one midway through the second quarter, but the Knicks went on a 21-7 run to end the half and led 64-49.
Terrific early long-distance shooting boosted the Knicks, who were 5 of 10 from 3-point range, including 3 of 4 by Porzingis. They finished the first half 8 of 15.
New York led by as many as 30 points in the third quarter and stayed ahead by 20-plus for the duration.
“We made a couple of shots, and they didn’t score the first three or four possessions, but after that it was a runaway train and we were running in mud for most of the first half,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “We just didn’t have enough life. They made us play and their starters had 80 (points) and ours had 31 and they started each half really strong.”
Skal Labissiere had 19 points of the bench to lead Sacramento, which did not have a player in double figures for the first three quarters. Buddy Hield added 17 off the bench for the Kings, who had no starters in double digits.
Porzingis, who exited the game to “MVP! MVP!” chants with almost three minutes left in the third quarter, had his eighth 30-point game of the season. He had 24 points in the first half.
“Porzingis is a heck of a player,” Joerger said. “You have to do a lot of work, because he is just so big and so skilled. He could see right over you.”
Lee’s 20-point game was his first since March, and Enes Kanter added 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks, who have gone 7-2 since starting the year 0-3.
New York had five players in double figures, including rookie Damyean Dotson (14) and veteran Michael Beasley (10).
NOTES: New York will get back the services of C Joakim Noah on Monday after he finishes a 20-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. ... The Kings had their first two-game winning streak of the season snapped. ... The Knicks recalled G Ron Baker and G Damyean Dotson from the G League’s Westchester Knicks. The duo was sent down on Friday and played Friday night for Westchester. ... The Kings continue their three-game East coast swing with a showdown at Washington on Monday. ... New York hosts Cleveland on Monday after defeating the Cavaliers 114-95 on Oct. 29 in Cleveland.