LAS VEGAS - Jahlil Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis were taken third and fourth in the NBA Draft, and in the first half of their first head-to-head meeting it was clear who was the better player.
Okafor was smooth in the post and his strength bothered the 7-3, 233-pound Porzingis, who called it "a little mismatch." But with the game on the line Tuesday, the Latvian big man stood much taller and again heard chants of "Por-Zing-is" from some Knicks' fans in the Thomas & Mack Center.
Porzingis twice blocked an Okafor shot, once late in regulation and again late in overtime. Okafor had the better overall game, finishing with 18 points compared to nine for Porzingis. But Porzingis' defense late helped the Knicks to an 84-81 win over the 76ers.
"He loves to compete," Derek Fisher said. "That's why we're excited about the potential that he has. A lot of the young guys don't love the game and playing and competing and mixing it up the way he does. I don't think he really thinks about his frame as a disadvantage. He's willing to get down and dirty. I think he showed that.
"He stood right up to Okafor and played him. Statistically, Okafor won the game, but Kristaps' team won. That's the major stat that really tells you the difference between guys."
It's only summer league, but the Knicks are 3-0 and Porzingis continues to open eyes. He wasn't the best player for the Knicks. That was the athletic Maurice Ndour, who could earn a camp invite if he keeps playing this way. The former Ohio forward scored 23 points.
But Porzingis is the player the Knicks are banking on to become a star as he develops and gets more comfortable and stronger. He drew praise from Okafor.
"He's really good," the former Duke big man said. "He's good. He's a top five pick for a reason. He's a hell of a player. It seems like he can do everything."
Although he couldn't contain Okafor in the first half, Porzingis didn't back down from him. He fronted him in the second half to try to keep the ball away from Okafor. Then when he got it, Porzingis was there to affect his shot or deny it.
After one block, Okafor got it back and went at Porzingis and elbowed him in the face, and was called for an offensive foul.
"I'm just playing hard," Porzingis said. "Those guys who thought I was soft, I'm just trying to play hard and that's what I am doing. I don't try to avoid the contact. If I have to take elbows to the face, I will and get offensive fouls. I'm just trying to play hard and do whatever it takes to win."
Porzingis' final stat line was 3-for-5, nine points, three rebounds, three assists, three blocks and seven fouls. One came with 1.4 seconds left in regulation and the Knicks up three.
He blocked Scottie Wilbekin's three-point attempt but was called for the foul. Wilbekin made all three free throws, sending the game to overtime. But Porzingis made up for it in the extra session, with a nice bounce pass assist to Ndour, a block and a foul shot with 6.9 seconds left to put the Knicks up three.
"I probably have surprised people who have never seen me play before," Porzingis said. "They thought I was a skinny guy from overseas who can't do anything. I haven't had a good game yet. I'm doing OK."Notes & quotes:Alexey Shved is getting more lucrative offers overseas and it doesn't look like he'll be back with the Knicks, his agent Mark Bartelstein said.