NEW YORK, NY – Kristaps Porzingis couldn’t even hide from the taunts during the national anthem.
He’s an enemy now to Knicks fans, and they treated him as rudely as any foe that has played at Madison Square Garden in recent years.
“I get it around this league,” Knicks forward Marcus Morris said, “but it was a different level.”
Morris made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining and New York beat the Dallas Mavericks 106-103 on Thursday night.
Porzingis was the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft who developed first into a fan favorite and then an All-Star. But he soured on the Knicks, and the fans have clearly soured on him. They jeered him when the Mavs hit the floor for pregame warmups, continued during the national anthem, when Porzingis won the opening tip and whenever else he touched the ball in the early going.
"I wouldn't say it affected me,” Porzingis said. “I heard it of course. It was pretty loud. But I tried to play my game, stay focused and not think too much about what's going on on the outside."
Morris also knocked away the Mavericks’ inbounds pass with under a second left, sending the Knicks to just their third victory in 12 games this season.
Porzingis finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds in his first game in New York as a visitor. Luka Doncic had 33 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in his fifth triple-double of the season.
Morris scored 20 points and Julius Randle had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who were playing their first home game since they were routed Sunday by Cleveland. Afterward, team President Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry held a press conference to express their disappointment with the team’s start.
They were much better in this one, fueled by a crowd like few others during the down years while Porzingis was a Knick.
Porzingis was playing at MSG for the first time since tearing his ACL on Feb. 6, 2018. While rehabbing the injury, he was surprisingly dealt to Dallas on Jan. 31 after Knicks management said he told them in a meeting that day that he didn’t want to stay with the franchise.
Porzingis has declined to talk about what caused the deterioration of his relationship with the team, so he understood why there would be such a harsh reception.
"It's what they know. It's what they've heard,” he said. “It is what it is. We came here to win a game and we're frustrated we didn't get it done."
Porzingis looked rattled at the beginning and then confused in the middle, appearing to walk toward the wrong tunnel at halftime before stopping and turning to exit the opposite direction.
He couldn’t silence the early boos with a basket, missing his first four shots before finally getting his first field goal on a tip-in about four minutes into the second quarter.
"I've been coming here a long time. Nothing surprises me in here. It was what it was,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We knew it was going to be a difficult atmosphere regardless of what the exact response was."
Doncic missed his first six 3-pointers, then made three in a row late in the third quarter. When he finally missed another, Porzingis soared in to slam home the miss with 0.4 seconds left and tie it at 87-all headed to the fourth.
Mavericks: After going 1 for 11 on Monday in a loss at Boston, Porzingis finished 7 for 17. ... Tim Hardaway Jr., who was part of the trade with Porzingis, scored 12 points off the bench.
Knicks: Mitchell Robinson had 16 points and eight rebounds after being cleared to return from a concussion following a three-game absence. ... The Knicks ended a five-game winning streak by visiting teams in the series, including their victory last Friday in Dallas.
Dennis Smith Jr., the former Mav who came to New York in the Porzingis trade, had 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds. He was shooting just 1 for 14 for the season coming into the game, having recently returned after missing seven games following a death in the family.
“Just grateful,” Smith said. “Glad to be playing. Glad to be out there with these guys. Glad to have people that believe in me, so just a lot of gratitude.”
Mavericks: Host Toronto on Saturday.
Knicks: Host Charlotte on Saturday.