Davis put up 48 points and 17 rebounds to go with four steals and three blocks in an overtime win Sunday.
That’s the kind of stat line that only a few people on the planet can produce. Davis has done it twice in his five-year career. Hakeem Olajuwon is the only other player to produce those numbers more than once in the past 35 years.
To compile a single-game line such as that, you need a rare blend of size, speed and agility. Porzingis, 7-foot-3 with a remarkable shooting touch, fits the profile.
Will he eventually be able to dominate in the manner that Olajuwon did -- and Davis has? We don’t have an answer to that question yet. And that’s OK.
Porzingis is just 44 games into his role as the No. 1 option in an NBA offense. There have been flashes of brilliance (30 points per game on 51 percent shooting in the season’s first three weeks). There have been periods of poor shooting and shot selection (20 points per game on 39 percent shooting the past two months).
Would it be smart to draw a conclusion on what Porzingis can and can’t do based on either stretch of the season? Probably not.
Just as Davis, the 2012 No. 1 pick, said he wasn’t fully comfortable with life as a No. 1 option in the NBA until his fourth season.
“My third year, after we got swept by Golden State, that whole playoffs just brought a different mentality to me,” he said. “Being that guy that [opponents] are scouting for, game planning for you, trying to take you out of the game. It’s different. So you have to find different ways to be effective.”
Porzingis has been searching for new ways to be effective over the course of the season. Every night seems to bring a new lesson. One game it’s passing out of double teams; the next, it’s recognizing a second defender coming from a blind spot when dribbling in the post or how to attack a mismatch without forcing a bad shot.
“I’m learning this year,” Porzingis said with a wry smile on Sunday. “I’m learning a lot.”
One lesson? Try to let the game come to you. Porzingis says he was too caught up earlier in the season with trying to maintain the otherworldly pace he set in the first 11 games. That led to some rushed shots and anxious moments. More recently, he has taken a different approach.
“I think now I’m starting to realize it doesn’t need to be that way. I can just let the game flow and see what happens,” he said. “I can make the right play and not force and try to get those numbers.”
“I’m just trying to slow down mentally. That’s helping me know,” he said afterward. “I’m not thinking I need to score as much. I just want to be involved. When the shots come, I’m going to take them, and they’re going to be higher-percentage shots, not as many contested shots and not as much me fighting to get the bucket.
“[This approach is] smoother. It’s my game, more on the perimeter and using my speed. And I feel like if I can keep my head this way and we can keep moving the ball like we moved it [Monday], then we’ll be fine.”
The Knicks, of course, have been anything but fine the past few weeks. Even after Monday’s win, they’ve lost 10 of their past 13, ruining any goodwill they engendered after a surprisingly strong start.
The team’s recent struggles coincided with a prolonged stretch of poor shooting for Porzingis. Some attributed the backslide to the absence of Tim Hardaway Jr., who was out for six weeks with a stress injury in his left leg. The Knicks outscore opponents by four points per 36 minutes when Porzingis and Hardaway share the court and are outscored by 0.8 points per 36 minutes when Porzingis is on the floor without Hardaway Jr.
Others have surmised that Porzingis’ recent struggles are evidence of a pattern: hot shooting early in the season that tails off in December and January. Another theory? Jeff Hornacek and the Knicks guards aren’t using Porzingis properly, failing to get him the ball off screens and relying too heavily on posting him up.
One Eastern Conference executive believes there is some merit in all three hypotheses. But in the bigger picture, the executive sees a player who is learning about life as the No. 1 option on the fly.
“He’s only done this for 40-plus games, while other guys have had time to play through mistakes in this role,” the executive said. “From what I’ve seen, this kid is going to be just fine. We’re just seeing him go through some growing pains.”
During Porzingis’ recent struggles, Hornacek has preached patience in adjusting to opposing defenses.
“Five, six years down in his career, those probably won’t be problems [against defensive pressure]. But right now, he’s experiencing it, and he’s going to learn from it,” Hornacek said.
Hornacek also believes that Porzingis will thrive with added strength as he continues to build muscle in subsequent offseasons.
“You can see the difference from year one to now. And he’s going to get better as the years go on,” Hornacek said. “Three years from now, you won’t be asking these questions [about durability].”
Three years from now, in a perfect world for the Knicks, Porzingis will be in the middle of his first long-term contract, putting together the kind of numbers that Davis compiled Sunday at the Garden.
Count The Brow among those who believe that day eventually will arrive for Porzingis.
“There’s going to be a lot of attention [on him], a lot of spotlight, but I feel like he’s still doing a great job,” Davis said. “The winning is going to come.”