“It’s an awesome feeling to come back, now being a Celtic, and play here,” Porzingis told reporters via NBC Boston. “Even getting booed and getting all that, it’s still cool. I really like that and enjoy that.”
“F**k Porzingis” chants echoed at his old stomping grounds, the Madison Square Garden, after his elbow struck Knicks backup center Isaiah Hartenstein with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter.
That incident triggered a 9-5 closing run for the Celtics. Porzingis scored nine of Boston’s last 11 points to haunt his former team.
“Of course here, if you’re not with New York, you’re the enemy,” Porzingis told reporters via NBC Boston. “I understand that part completely. “I miss this place and I wish nothing but the best for this organization.”
Porzingis, the fourth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, earned his first All-Star berth with the Knicks. But his messy exit in 2019 (he was traded to Dallas) made him a Garden villain.
The 7-foot-3 Latvian punished the Knicks with 30 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including five 3-pointers. He added eight rebounds and four swats in a scintillating Celtics debut, proving they made the right gamble swapping him for Marcus Smart.
Porzingis was popping on offense from way above the 3-point arc that had the Knicks bigs — Mitchell Robinson, Hartenstein and Julius Randle — scrambling on defense. He terrorized the Knicks in the paint with nasty rejections and several altered shots.
Misfiring Knicks Stars
Despite Porzingis and Jayson Tatum combining for 64 points, the Knicks kept in lockstep with the Celtics until they faded down the stretch.
They even held a six-point lead in the final four minutes.
But they shot themselves in the foot, with Randle and Jalen Brunson combining to shoot 11-of-43 from the field. It did not help that the Knicks missed a dozen free throws in a tightly contested game.
Randle finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. But he only shot 5-of-22 in his first official game back from an ankle surgery in the offseason. He was game-worst minus-13. Brunson could not shake off Jrue Holiday’s defense, hitting only 6-of-21 from the floor. He registered a second-team-worst minus-9 rating.
Julius Randle Shuts Down Trade Rumors
As the Knicks start to dream big following their best season in a decade, they have been linked to Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid.
Randle was floated as part of the potential package for the reigning MVP.
“We’ve been in every one since I’ve been here, good or bad,” Randle said via Newsday’s Steve Popper. “It’s always a rumor.”
A day before their opening night to the Celtics, a Philadelphia Inquirer report named him, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and Evan Fournier as the potential trade baits for the Knicks in their pursuit of Embiid.
“A trio from that group would be paired with two or three first-round picks,” Philadelphia Inquirer’s 76ers beat reporter Keith Pompey reported.
Randle’s performance this season will be under heavy scrutiny, with the Embiid rumors putting more pressure on his broad shoulders.