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Kristaps Porzingis' 24 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks lead Knicks to fourth straight win

Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks poses

Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks poses for a portrait during the 2015 NBA rookie photo shoot on August 8, 2015 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. Photo Credit: Getty Images

HOUSTON - Kristaps Porzingis is growing as a player right before everyone's eyes, and the latest part of his evolution featured him becoming a closer.

With Carmelo Anthony struggling to score and limited by foul trouble Saturday night, Porzingis was huge on both ends of the floor, especially in the fourth quarter. He led the Knicks to their fourth straight win as they beat the Rockets, 107-102, at the Toyota Center.

The 7-3 rookie shot 8-for-12 and had 24 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots. In the fourth quarter, Porzingis scored eight points, grabbed five offensive rebounds and blocked two of James Harden's shots.

The Knicks improved to 8-6 overall and 5-2 on the road and have started this four-game trip with back-to-back wins.

Porzingis was quiet in Friday night's win in Oklahoma City, scoring only seven points. But he showed a little of everything Saturday night, including a lefty hook and righty hook.

Arron Afflalo scored 16 points. Anthony had 14 points in 26 minutes and Langston Galloway added 12.

Harden had 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for the Rockets, who were without center Dwight Howard. He sat out the second game of the back-to-back to rest. Terrence Jones had 15 points and nine rebounds for Houston and Clint Capela had 16 points and 14 rebounds.

The struggling Rockets are 5-9 overall and 1-2 since firing Kevin McHale on Wednesday and replacing him with J.B. Bickerstaff.

Porzingis gave the Knicks a 100-99 lead with two free throws with 1:22 left and then came up with a big defensive stop, blocking Harden's shot on a drive to the basket. Houston retained the ball, but Harden missed a jumper that Afflalo rebounded.

Out of a timeout, the Knicks went to Anthony, who scored on a goaltending call that put the Knicks up 102-99 with 40.4 seconds to go. The Knicks then came up with a huge defensive stand as they forced Trevor Ariza into a contested three-pointer that he missed and Anthony rebounded.

Anthony made one free throw to give the Knicks a 103-99 lead with 18.8 seconds to go. After Jose Calderon drew an offensive foul on Harden, Anthony made two from the line with 11.5 secondd left to make it 105-99.

The Rockets closed to three on Jones' three-pointer. But Lance Thomas iced the game with two free throws with 2.1 seconds left.

The Knicks led by seven in the third and were up two to start the fourth. The Rockets tied it three times in the first 6:34. Each time the Knicks answered to regain the lead, and Porzingis was in the center of all of it.

He tracked down an offensive rebound to keep a possession alive, and Galloway drilled a three-pointer. Later, he got another offensive rebound and knocked down a long jumper of his own to make it 95-93 with 4:17 left.

The Rockets tied it again and had a chance to take the lead, but Porzingis swatted Harden's shot, leading to a three-pointer by Anthony to make it 98-95 with 2:18 to go.

Houston finally went ahead at 99-98 on Corey Brewer's two foul shots with 1:41 left. Anthony missed on the other end, but Porzingis rebounded it and was fouled. His free throws put the Knicks back on top 100-99 with 1:22 left. Things change quickly in the NBA. The Rockets reached the Western Conference finals last year and their coach was fired 11 games into this season. The Knicks won a franchise-worst 17 games last year, and they look like the more stable franchise.

The Knicks have brought in three new starters and eight new players overall. But they are working together on both ends of the floor.

Many of the players the Knicks brought in have a defensive mindset and they're team-oriented, character guys. They've meshed well with the six returning Knicks, and it's helped this group look like a team.

"It's in our daily approach to what we're doing," Derek Fisher said. "Every guy that's on our roster right now has bought into it: coming to practices early, staying after, doing all the things necessary to take care of their bodies, their minds, to be prepared to play. It takes time to change those things, but we feel like we've done a lot of work in those areas.

"Players are smarter than people give them credit for. They can feel if you're invested in them and you're committed to their individual development. That's what we're trying to do."

Fast starts have been common during the Knicks' winning streak. But they came out a little sluggish Saturday night and fell behind by seven midway through the first quarter.

Porzingis, however, played well from the outset and only got better in the second quarter. He shot 4-for-5 in the second and had 10 points, propelling the Knicks to a 58-53 lead at the half.

The rookie scored eight consecutive points during one stretch, and displayed all different parts of his game.

Porzingis connected on a three-pointer, a lefty hook shot in the lane, and another three-pointer. He also missed a shot in transition that turned into an adventure with a wild dribble that appeared to be a violation but went uncalled.

The Knicks ended the half making their last eight shots. They scored 34 points, with 22 coming in the final 5:18.

They did most of that without Anthony, who played just four minutes in the second quarter due to foul trouble. Anthony picked up his fourth foul less than three minutes into the third and went to the bench for the rest of the quarter.

The Knicks opened up a seven-point advantage without Anthony, but only led 79-77 after three.


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