The New York Knicks are off to their best start in years after last night's 108-101 home win against the Indiana Pacers. At 5-4, the Knicks are above .500 nine games into a season for the first time since 2012-13 (which, coincidentally, is the last time New York made the playoffs). If Kristaps Porzingis can keep up his torrid pace of late, there's little reason to think the Knicks won't end their playoff slump.
Porzingis had 40 points and six blocks in last night's victory, marking the seventh game this season in which he has had 30 or more points. As well, he made some franchise history, as his 272 total points through the first nine games of 2017-18 are the most ever by a Knick. In each of the previous two occurrences (1984 and '90), New York not only made the playoffs, but also reached the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Most points through first nine games, Knicks history:
* K. Porzingis | 272 points | 2017-18 season
* B. King | 264 points | 1984-85 season
* P. Ewing | 261 points | 1989-90 season
KP's 272 points are the most ever by a Knick through the team's first 9 games of a season/#2 Bernard King 264-'84-85 #3 P. Ewing 261-'89-90 pic.twitter.com/chju1ehzf7— NBA History (@NBAHistory) November 6, 2017
Per The Associated Press, Porzingis is also the first NBA players since 1983-84 to post at least 40 points, five rebounds, five blocks and make two 3-pointers.
As the No. 2 scorer in the NBA as of this morning, Porzingis is reaping the benefits of an offseason filled with workouts and a dedication to making himself mentally tougher. After Sunday's win against the Pacers, Porzingis said he has accepted what comes with being the go-to guy for the Knicks:
''The challenge is never too big for me'', said Porzingis.
''I always accept the challenge and that's why I knew coming into this season, if Melo was not going to be here, then I am going to have to be the guy.''
Fred Kerber of the New York Post summed up Porzingis' big night against the Pacers well, detailing how Porzingis' skills -- which made him a matchup nightmare in seasons past -- has reached new levels in 2017-18:
And Porzingis dominated offensively like few can. He scored the Knicks’ last seven points of the third quarter, which ended with the 19-point deficit cut to 12. Then he scored the Knicks’ first eight points of the fourth.
Nothing Indiana tried worked. Porzingis admitted he was motivated hearing ex-Knicks president Phil Jackson say last year he was not ready to be a go-to guy.
“I’m very comfortable,” Porzingis said of that role. “Every night, teams are trying to play physical with me. They’re trying to play physical against me. I’m seeing a different type of defense almost every night. No matter who I’m playing against they’re trying to be physical with me.”
So he shoots over them. Around them. Backing away from them. Dunking on them. However he wants. Porzingis, coming off a 37-point performance Friday against Phoenix, has the most points, 272, through the first nine games of a season in Knicks history. Few have seen his like.
“Not at all,” Courtney Lee said. “The closest to it was probably Yao [Ming], with Yao being that tall. KP’s more skilled as far as playing on the perimeter. He’s scratching the surface right now. He’s still got a lot of room to improve.”
Between his performance last night and his recent talk of his belief that he could be the NBA's best player someday, he's well on his way to a bright season.