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Kristaps Porzingis plays OK in first game at MSG

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis gets off

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis gets off a shot against Paschoalotto/Bauru in the second quarter of their NBA exhibition game at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 7, 2015. Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine

Kristaps Porzingis was on the floor 2 1/2 hours before his NBA preseason debut, taking his first shots ever inside Madison Square Garden.

"My shot is good," Porzingis said before the game.

That seems to be the scouting report. But it took a while before Porzingis hit one.

He started at power forward Wednesday night and missed his first two shots before draining a three-pointer from straightaway with 2:06 left in the first half in the Knicks' 100-81 win over the Brazilian team Bauru.

Porzingis, whom the Knicks took with the No. 4 pick in the draft, ended up 2-for-6 with seven points two rebounds and one block in 21 minutes. The 7-3 Latvian is a work-in-progress. But he should be able to stretch the floor with his shooting. He was 2-for-3 from three. "I could have done a better job," Porzingis said during an on-court interview with MSG. "Solid job, but I expect more of myself."

The Knicks' other rookie, Jerian Grant, got off to a good start, registering six points and four assists in the first half. Grant looked very confident running the offense and was aggressive going to the basket.

Carmelo Anthony was sharp in his first game since undergoing left knee surgery in February. Anthony, who last played in the All-Star Game at the Garden, made his first three shots and finished 8-for-10 with 17 points in 20 minutes.

New Knick and Queens product Kyle O'Quinn stood out as well. He shot 5 of 7 with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and one rejection.

This wasn't real NBA competition, but the Knicks should be better than last year when they were a franchise-worst 17-65.

They have a deeper team with versatile players, but no stars beyond Anthony. Swingman Arron Afflalo is their second most accomplished scorer, but he didn't play because of a strained left hamstring. Sasha Vujacic started at shooting guard and had nine points.

But Porzingis is the intriguing prospect who the Knicks and their fans hope develops into the type of talent team officials have been touting. Associate head coach Kurt Rambis said he could become a combination of Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol. But Rambis cautioned "probably all of it won't come out for three, four, five years."

Porzingis doesn't doubt he will be able to prove himself. He's a mature 20-year-old who understands what's expected of him and is driven to reach his potential.

"I think playing in New York, there's a lot of pressure obviously," Porzingis said. "But me, and a lot of Europeans -- Sasha is the same way -- we love the pressure. If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.''

"If you're great here they will love you, if you suck then they will let you know it. It's definitely a tough place. I love that. You can do all you want talking, but you've got to go out there on the floor and actually prove that you can play and then they'll respect you."


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