Kristaps Porzingis proved against his former team why he is the frontrunner in the NBA Finals.
In each team’s season opener on Wednesday night, Boston defeated the New York Knicks 108-104. Jayson Tatum had 34 points and 11 rebounds, and Porzingis sank a game-winning 3-pointer with 1:29 remaining to cap off a fantastic Celtics debut.
With eight rebounds and four blocked shots in the game against his former NBA team, Porzingis demonstrated why the Celtics, who added Jrue Holiday and the 7-foot-3 big in the offseason, should be contenders for another championship.
The record for the highest-scoring Celtics debut was set by Porzingis.
“Honestly, it’s an awesome feeling to come back now being a Celtic and play here,” he said. “Even getting booed and getting all that, it’s still cool, I really like that and enjoyed that. But most importantly we won the game and very excited about what we have ahead of us.”
With 3:40 remaining, Holiday made a crucial basket to give the Knicks a six-point lead. Porzingis then scored Boston’s next nine points, including the 3-pointer that broke a 101-all tie.
Nine points were scored by Holiday. For the Celtics, Derrick White scored twelve, while Jaylen Brown contributed eleven points, six rebounds, and five assists.
The Knicks, who had a poor start, took the lead for the first time in the game with a 13-2 run to start the fourth quarter, led by 24 points apiece from RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. Against one of the top teams in the NBA, they were unable to hold on.
“I thought the start of the game hurt us and then I thought the second, third and fourth we played better,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“It’s still choppy, we’re working through things, but we have to be ready and alert.”
While rehabbing from an ACL tear, Porzingis, who was the No. 4 pick by the Knicks in 2015 and an All-Star in 2017–18, lost interest in the team. During the 2018–19 season, he was traded.
Porzingis, who averaged a career-high 23.2 points per game for Washington last season, has matured into the star the Knicks had anticipated.
After being vociferously jeered during the pregame introductions, Porzingis scored 15 points and made three 3-pointers in the opening quarter, which saw Boston win 30–18. However, in his nearly eight minutes of action in the second half, he failed to make a single shot, and the Knicks closed the gap to 51-46 at the break.
Boston reclaimed a double-digit lead in the second half thanks to nine points from Tatum. Midway through the third quarter, Jalen Brunson’s 3-pointer put the Knicks on the offensive, but Porzingis’ subsequent jumper beat the buzzer to put the Celtics ahead 82-73.
Al Horford came off the bench for the first time since doing so six games in Philadelphia during the 2019–20 season, with Porzingis starting. In over a thousand career games, he has only accomplished it four previous times, one as a rookie for Atlanta in 2007–08.
Horford finished with seven rebounds and eight points.
Brunson shot just 6 of 21 for 15 points, a poor performance. Julius Randle scored 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished out seven assists while shooting 5 for 22.
The Knicks made just two dunks and missed eleven of their first thirteen shots.