Porzingis relished in hostile Knicks crowd amid historic debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Kristaps Porzingis made a memorable debut for the Boston Celtics, thriving in the face of his former team’s hostility.
Porzingis was a force at both ends on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. He scored 30 points, the most ever by a player in their first game with the Celtics, and contributed eight rebounds and four blocks, leading Boston to a 108-104 win on Opening Night.
Despite facing continuous boos from the Knicks crowd and enduring a “F— Porzingis!” chant, Porzingis remained unfazed.
“That was awesome,” Porzingis said after the game. “Playing here at the Garden is always special as the home team, obviously, but also on the road here, it’s really fun. At one point, it got really crazy when the fans got into it and they made the comeback. But we stayed poised, we stayed calm and we were able to finish out the game on making some big plays and some free throws. Overall, a fun game to play in, for sure.”
After spending his first four NBA seasons with the Knicks, Porzingis tore his ACL in February 2018 and never returned to the team. He was eventually traded to the Dallas Mavericks in January 2019. Now playing for the Celtics, Porzingis seemed to relish the opportunity to face his former team.
“Honestly, it’s an awesome feeling to come back now, being a Celtic and playing here,” Porzingis said. “Even getting booed and getting all of that is still cool. I enjoy that.”
Porzingis demonstrated his resilience in the face of adversity during the game. With the score tied at 101-101 in the final two minutes, he nailed a crucial 3-pointer, his fifth of the night, to secure a hard-fought victory for Boston. Despite picking up a couple of technical fouls earlier in the game, Porzingis remained composed and delivered when his team needed him.
Porzingis also expressed no ill will towards Knicks fans, understanding their reaction to his departure.
“I think it was the way that exit happened,” he said when asked why he believed he was booed. “I think it was that. Of course, if you’re not with New York, you’re the enemy. And I understand that part completely. I miss this place, and I wish nothing but the best for this organization.”
Porzingis’ exceptional performance in a hostile environment bodes well for the Celtics, who will rely on him during key moments in the playoffs. Up next, the Celtics will face the Miami Heat in their home opener on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET, and Porzingis is likely to receive a much warmer reception.
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