Kristaps Porzingis’ magic caps Knicks’ full-team comeback


Kristaps Porzingis’ magic caps Knicks’ full-team comeback

Kristaps Porzingis’ magic caps Knicks’ full-team comeback:-Familiarity breeds contempt.

And, apparently, comeback victories.

Two nights after the Knicks rallied from a 19-point grave, they did it again, this time scrambling back from 15 down. Call it: “The Comeback II” or “Rally, The Sequel” or if you really want to grab attention “Leggy Supermodels From Mars.”

Nah, go with the comeback angle.

“Very similar situation,” said Kristaps Porzingis, who played a monster role in the comeback but was on the bench during much of the rally.

So while it was Porzingis who stuck a huge 3-pointer with 1:49 left and added a backbreaking drive in his 28-point night, the Knicks found heroes in every size, shape and position as they overcame an atrocious defensive start and upended the Hornets, 118-113, for their sixth victory in seven games to the delight of 18,704 delirious Madison Square Garden fans Tuesday.

If you missed Sunday’s retaliation from 19 down against the Pacers, no worries. Here it was again. And vice versa. The Knicks, who surrendered 41 points in the first quarter (their worst quarter so far) and 69 points in the half (their worst half so far), still trailed by 11 with less than 10 minutes to go.

“In my head I was believing we were going to come back,” said rookie Frank Ntilikina, who played the last 14:04 and 25:34 overall. “When we finally had the lead it was kind of like two days ago and that’s crazy.”

When they finally got the lead, on the 3-pointer over Dwight Howard (21 points) by Porzingis playing center in a “small” lineup, it came after the crucial work of the likes of Doug McDermott (20 points, 7-of-8 shooting), Kyle O’Quinn (12 points), Lance Thomas (10 points) off the bench and starter Tim Hardaway Jr. (19 points).

“It’s being a team. When you’re out there the whole team is supporting you no matter what unit is in there,” said O’Quinn, who claimed the Knicks entered the fourth quarter with a “here we go again” attitude. “Yeah, in a positive way. We’ve been here before, we can do it again.”

And they did. Even with a “subpar” Porzingis. Yup, he scored 28 and was “subpar.” He started off like a true monster. He scored 15 points in the first quarter, 13 of those in the first 6:10.

“He’s the thing you need if you want to be an elite team: an offensive superstar you can’t guard one-on-one,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said.

So then the Hornets, who also had 21 point efforts from Malik Monk and All-Star Kemba Walker, started swarming. And Porzingis was not the picture of health.

“It was a fight for me, actually, the whole game. I didn’t feel great today,” Porzingis said.

So when coach Jeff Hornacek subbed for him at 2:04 of the third with the Knicks down 12, Porzingis stayed on the bench until 5:34 of the fourth when the deficit was still a considerable nine.

“He may have looked like he didn’t have as much energy, but I thought the bench did a great job of getting us into the game, cutting a lead down,” Hornacek said. “We were able to give him a couple of extra minutes … then he seemed to have good energy.”

And a good line on a 3-pointer and a great line to the basket for a drive.

After Porzingis returned, the 3 become the weapon of choice. Thomas hit one at 5:19 to make the deficit six. Hardaway got it to three at 4:48. After a Walker drive for Charlotte, McDermott stuck one from the corner at 3:08 and it was a two-point spread.

“McDermott was the difference in the game,” Clifford said.

Porzingis tied it with two free throws at 2:32. He then hit the biggest triple as the Hornets were in the midst of missing their last 10 shots, including a Monk 3 with 8.5 seconds left after Porzingis’ drive made it 116-113. Courtney Lee added two free throws after a Walker turnover following an offensive rebound.

“It’s just us playing as a team and playing defense,” Porzingis said. “We don’t ever give up and then we were able to win those close games.”