The up-and-down season for 20-year-old New York Knicks rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis had among its biggest ups on Friday night, when he scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a one-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Porzingis finished one point shy of his career high (29 against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 17). His 28 points were the most by a rookie in a game against the Spurs this season. He has seven 20-point games this season and six games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds (his past two coming against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Spurs). The only player age 21 or younger with more 20-10 games this season is Karl-Anthony Towns with eight.
Entering the night, Porzingis had only one 20-point game in his previous 15 games and was shooting 35 percent from the field in that span.
Porzingis found his mid-range and long-range games in San Antonio. He went 4-for-5 on mid-range shots (he was shooting 34 percent, 20-of-58 in his past 15 games) and 3-of-6 on what we would call “straight-on” 3-pointers (he entered 9-for-33 in his past 15 games).
The Knicks are now 2-5 when Porzingis scores at least 20 points, so his best work has gone mostly unrewarded. Friday, he cut the deficit to one on an alley-oop dunk with 33 seconds left. But on the Knicks' last possession, the ball went from Carmelo Anthony to Jose Calderon, who missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Porzingis has not officially gotten a shot at a buzzer beater yet (he had one waved off earlier this season because he shot it a hair too late). Anthony and Calderon are a combined 0-for-4 on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime this season.
The Knicks seem to be working Porzingis in carefully. He has taken only four shots in the final five minutes of games that could have tied the score or put the Knicks ahead. By comparison, Anthony and Arron Afflalo have taken 10 each, combining to make seven.