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Kristaps Porzingis' 37 lead New York Knicks past Phoenix Suns

By Jon Gold, The Sports Xchange
Kristaps Porzingis' 37 lead New York Knicks past Phoenix Suns
New York Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK -- It took nearly 44 minutes and a 17-point lead, but the Madison Square Garden crowd finally woke up on Friday night.

It was a much quicker start for the New York Knicks.

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Two days after head coach Jeff Hornacek called out his team for lacking energy in a 22-point loss to the Houston Rockets, the Knicks burst out of the gates with a quick lead and went on to a 120-107 win over visiting Phoenix on Friday night.

Despite boasting a big lead for much of the game, the MSG crowd was lackadaisical until Kristaps Porzingis threw down a thunderous breakaway dunk-and-foul with roughly four minutes left in the game, two (then three) of his game-high 37 points on the night.

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"We've talked about it before, and he's a force in there," Hornacek said of Porzingis, who topped 30 points for the sixth time in eight games. "He's taking his time. He realizes he can shoot over people and he just turns and shoots it."

The Knicks gave them plenty to cheer about for much of the game, though, jumping to a 32-19 first-quarter lead as Porzingis scored 12 points, and Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter both had eight.

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"Porzingis is special," Suns center Tyson Chandler said. "He has a chance to be the best player in the league. Watching him tonight and seeing what he's done so far, this season, he has a real shot of being one of the best players in the league."

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For the second straight game, the Knicks got off to a hot start, but unlike in their loss to the Rockets, the Knicks maintained their advantage beyond the first quarter.

The Knicks used a 15-2 run to take control midway through the quarter as Phoenix missed 15 straight shots.

"After we won four out of five games, we sort of came out and forgot what had won us those games," Phoenix's Devin Booker said. "We have to go out there and play with effort and with an edge. We haven't been doing that."

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With Suns hot-scoring forward T.J. Warren sidelined with a head injury suffered at the end of the first quarter -- Warren collided with Kanter under the basket and was out for the duration, but Kanter returned -- Phoenix lacked a No. 2 scorer behind Booker to help them get back in the game.

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Warren had a career-high 40 points in a 122-116 win over Washington on Wednesday but made just 2 of 10 shots from the field for six points in 10 minutes before exiting.

Phoenix trimmed New York's lead to six points early in the third quarter and again to seven midway through the third before the Knicks stretched the lead back to double digits.

Booker finished with 34 points to lead Phoenix, but no other Suns player had more than 15 points.

The Suns shot 35 percent from the field for the game and just 28 percent from 3-point range

Hardaway had 21 points and Kanter finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds as New York shot 51.7 percent from the field.

"(Kanter's) energy is contagious," Hornacek said. "Running down, grabbing offensive rebounds, it wears other teams down."

Doug McDermott (12 points) and Michael Beasley (11) both contributed off the bench for the Knicks, who have won four of five since inserting point guard Jarrett Jack in the starting lineup. Jack finished with just two points but eight assists as the Knicks had 24 assists as a team.

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New York outrebounded Phoenix 49-47, the fourth time in five games that they've won the battle of the boards. Not coincidentally the Knicks won all four of those games.

New York also dominated in points in the paint, 62-42.

"I thought they made tough shots early and then we got caught up watching the ball," Phoenix interim coach Jay Triano said. "We weren't as sound as we have been defensively tonight."

NOTES: New York's victory gave them a one-game advantage in the all-time series, 125-124. Phoenix swept both games last season. ... F T.J. Warren suffered a concussion during the preseason and also had a head injury last season. ... New York returns to Madison Square Garden on Sunday night to play Indiana, part of a home-heavy November for the Knicks. New York plays 11 of its 15 November games in the friendly confines. ... Phoenix concludes a five-game road trip with a visit to San Antonio on Sunday.

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