NEW YORK – Even before he made his way to Madison Square Garden, Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis figured he wasn’t going to get any type of warm welcome home reception from the crowd.
He was right. And the Knicks treated him and the Mavs even worse than the fans.
Marcus Morris Sr. connected on a critical 3-point basket and the Knicks went on to edge the Mavs, 106-103, on Thursday night in front of a very loud and partisan sellout crowd of 19,812.
The loss was the second in a row for the Mavs – their first losing streak of the season — and dropped their record to 6-5. Meanwhile, in beating the Mavs for the second time in a week, the Knicks improved to 3-9.
Porzingis was considered the Knicks’ franchise player after they made him the No. 4 overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. But the 7-3 forward was traded to the Mavs on Jan. 31, and in Porzingis’ first trip to New York on Thursday since the trade, the fans didn’t treat him too kindly, as they booed him whenever he touched the ball and a lot of times when he didn’t touch the ball.
“I wouldn’t say it affected me,” said Porzingis, who finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks..” I heard it, of course.
“It was pretty loud. But I tried to play my game and stay focused and not think too much about what’s going on in the outside.”
Porzingis, who was 7-of-17 from the field in 33 minutes, brushed aside the unkind reception he received from the fans, and his efforts kept the Mavs in contention with the pesky Knicks.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” Porzingis said of the loud noise. “I knew it was going to be like this and I was excited to come back. I don’t really think about that too much.
“I came in here, I wanted to win the game, I’m happy that there’s emotions. It (doesn’t feel good) to play when nobody is cheering or booing, so it’s kind of cool. I like it. If it’s emotions it’s good. I enjoyed it.”
Coach Rick Carlisle said all things considered, Porzingis played well. He also felt games of this nature can ultimately help the Mavs down the road.
“I’ve been coming here a long time,” Carlisle said. “Nothing surprises me in here. It was what it was, and we knew it was going to be a difficult atmosphere regardless of what the exact response was.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for a young team that has playoff aspirations to learn about this kind of environment, because this was a playoff game in terms of intensity, crowd involvement, all those kinds of things — as was the game Monday night in Boston. Both were tough games for us.”
The Mavs battled back from a 10-point deficit to forge a 101-101 tie when Seth Curry scored on a put-back basket with 38 seconds left. A jumpball ensued thereafter between Delon Wright and Plano native Julius Randle, with Randle winning the jump.
That proved to be crucial as Morris worked the clock and calmly buried a step-back 3-pointer with just 13.4 seconds left to give the Knicks a 104-101 lead. Luka Doncic then drove inside and scored to close the gap to one point with 5.8 seconds to go, but Frank Ntilikina bumped the New York cushion back to three points by sinking a pair of free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining.
With no timeouts left, the Mavs had to settle for a desperation 3-pointer by Curry that missed its mark.
“It was a good three (by Morris), and we knew there was plenty of time,” Carlisle said. “With the foul to give it took a little extra time, which wasn’t ideal.
“But we had the ball at the end and it was a tough situation and we weren’t able to get a good look.”
Doncic collected his fifth triple-double of the season with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Also for the Mavs, Dwight Powell and Tim Hardaway Jr. tallied 12 points apiece, and Boban Marjanovic added 10 points and five rebounds.
The Mavs started slow, falling behind 27-19 late in a first quarter that saw Porzingis score three points. But thanks to eight points in rapid-like fashion by Porzingis, the Mavs only trailed, 58-53, at intermission.
However, with Morris, Randle, Mitchell Robinson and former Mavs point guard Dennis Smith Jr. excelling, the Knicks defied the odds again and stunned the Mavs again after beating them last Friday in Dallas, 106-102. Morris finished with 20 points, Randle had 17 points and 11 boards, Mitchell produced 16 points and eight rebounds, and Smith played his best game of the season with 13 points,, six rebounds and eight assists.
“They played good basketball, they got the crowd into it in the beginning, they hit some big shots, they played well, they had high energy throughout the game, so it’s a tough one for us,” Porzingis said. “I think they probably came into this game a little more extra motivated and we kind of gave them light and made them think that they can play well.
“Things didn’t go our way as much as we wanted it to, and they really did play well.”
The Mavs were outrebounded by nine, shot just 42.9 percent from the field and were a woeful 8-for-36 from 3-point territory. They also only scored 16 points in that frenetic fourth quarter.
“I think we played bad,” said Doncic, who was 10-of-23 from the field including 3-of-12 from 3-point land. “I played bad, especially on the defensive end.
“I think we can do a way better job than we did today, and we just have to learn from this. It’s a long season.”
Doncic brushed off thoughts of his triple-double, saying: “I would rather have the victory. It was good, but I wanted the win.”
For his part, Doncic also wished Porzingis would have gotten a better reception from the fans who used to cheer for Porzingis when he played for the Knicks.
“It was really tough for him,” Doncic said. “The way he handled it, he is just so professional.
“I don’t think he deserved (the boos) — he gave a lot to the Knicks. They booed him at the draft. I don’t think he deserves this in my point of view, but he handled it very professionally and I am really proud of him.”
Porzingis even threw down a thunderous rebound dunk near the end of the third quarter that tied the score at 87. Still, during his postgame interview session, he kept getting questions about the crowd reaction.
“I was expecting this,” Porzingis said. “As I said, I prefer this than neutral. Emotion is good.
“Good or bad, it means people care, and especially Knicks’ fans. They’re very passionate and it was a fun night. I like it.”