MIAMI -- On the surface, it appeared like New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis had a strong game on Monday night. Plenty of rookies would sign up for a night like he had against the Miami Heat: 20 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and one turnover.
But Porzingis didn’t see it that way.
“I got numbers, but at important moments I missed a lot of shots,” he said.
Perspective like that is part of the reason the Knicks are so encouraged by the rookie.
In addition to his rare blend of height, shooting touch and defensive ability, Porzingis seems to say the right thing at the right time.
Case in point: Some were planning the parade route for Porzingis' first championship when he scored 29 against Charlotte last week. But Porzingis correctly reminded reporters afterward that it would be foolish to make too much of one game.
“I made shots,” he said. “I could have played better, obviously.”
And he also was right about his self-assessment on Monday. The Heat gave Porzingis a reality check early in the game, forcing him to miss six of his first eight shots. He failed to connect from spaces on the court where he had enjoyed success earlier this week: both elbows, the right wing and right in front of the rim.
The rookie found some rhythm in the second half, hitting five of 10 shots. But most of his points came with the Knicks trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter.
“Today wasn’t a good day for me or the team,” he said afterward.
The Knicks loss wasn't all on Porzingis though. It didn’t help that the Knicks bench was outscored 30-10 or that New York attempted 15 fewer free throws than Miami. It also didn't help that Carmelo Anthony missed 10 of his 16 shots.
Despite the loss, the big picture for Porzingis remains overwhelmingly positive.
Monday’s game was the rookie’s seventh double-double in 15 games. He has recorded single-game highs for rookies this season in points (29) and blocks (seven) and is tied for the rookie single-game high in rebounds (15).
So all of the attention being heaped on the No. 4 pick is warranted.
But it will be interesting to see how Porzingis reacts when teams key on him defensively.
Hours before tipoff on Monday, Chris Bosh told reporters the Heat would focus their attention on the rookie.
“Most from what I see on the film is guys not paying attention to him,” Bosh said. “He can play basketball.
"Just challenge him. He’ll hit tough shots, but we can’t allow him to get easy buckets.”
The Heat found a way to slow Porzingis down by using a combination of Bosh and Luol Deng guarding him.
Now that he has found some success in the NBA, Porzingis can expect other opposing defenses to concoct a game plan against him.
How will he respond?
“I’ll still have to try to find a way to score,” he said.