Kristaps Porzingis saved his best game of the season for his first meeting against the team that traded him away, the New York Knicks.
The Knicks saved their best game for Porzingis, and sent the Dallas Mavericks to a home loss they might regret when the late-season push for the playoffs comes around.
New York used a late 9-0 run to build just enough late cushioning, and the Knicks withstood a triple-double and career-high 38 points from Luka Doncic in a surprising 106-102 victory.
The Knicks entered the game as one of two teams with the NBA’s worst record, at 1-7, but their hot 3-point shooting and strong finish to each of the first two quarters combined to do in the Mavs.
All three of the Mavs’ losses this season have come at American Airlines Center.
“They’re the kind of team that’s capable of putting that kind of game together, and we knew it coming in,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We just lost some momentum in that first quarter, and that was a killer.”
Doncic added 14 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season. He also committed eight turnovers, one off his career-high, and a few of those were a factor in the Knicks’ late run.
Marcus Morris Sr. led the Knicks with 29 points, and Julius Randle added 20 more. Dennis Smith Jr., who was sent by the Mavs to the Knicks last season in the Porzingis trade, did not play after missing time after the death of his stepmother.
The Knicks snapped a 92-92 tie and led 101-92 with 1:49 to go, but they continued giving the Mavs late life by missing 5 of 8 free throws. The Knicks were up 105-102 with 23.7 seconds left when Taj Gibson missed two free throws and Doncic grabbed the rebound.
He took the first clean shot he could get, albeit from 34 feet. The miss and a Randal free throw finished off the Mavs.
Carlisle said that he trusts Doncic in all situations and didn’t voice any displeasure with the shot. Porzingis said a better shot might have been available, but he, too, trusts Doncic in those situations.
But Doncic, who scored or assisted on the Mavs’ first 25 points of the game, shouldered the blame.
“I made a bad decision,” he said. “That wasn’t the shot I was looking for. I let my team down again.”
Porzingis scored a season-high 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds before fouling out with 30 seconds to play. He said that he found a better rhythm by not forcing shot but playing to the flow of the game.
He stroked two early 3s and scored 16 points in the first half.
“Not a great night for us as a team, but we were still right there at the end,” Porzingis said. “I felt good today. What I did was just try to relax out there and just try to let the game come to me and take good shots.”
Only one other Mavs player besides Porzingis and Doncic scored in double figures, but six of Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 14 points came on a pair of late 3-pointers. He opened the game 1 of 8 from long range, and the Mavs made only 14 of their 44 3-point tries.
The Knicks hit 14 of 28 3-pointers.
“They didn’t shoot the ball super well overall, but their 3-point shooting was terrific and, obviously, the difference in the game,” Carlisle said.