Don't bother even trying to pump the brakes on the Kristaps Porzingis hype train now. After Tuesday night's spectacular showing, it could soon run right off the tracks—if it hasn't already.
The No. 4 pick in the 2015 NBA draft went from entertaining sideshow to center-stage star at Madison Square Garden during the New York Knicks' 102-94 win over the Charlotte Hornets. He erupted for 17 points and nine rebounds in the first half on the way to a career-high 29 points and 11 boards.
According to Basketball Insiders' Tommy Beer, that performance put the 20-year-old Porzingis in rare company:
It also happened to be the best performance by a Knicks rookie since a certain Patrick Aloysius Ewing in 1985-86, per ESPN's Tom Haberstroh:
Better yet, Porzingis poured in all those points without dominating the ball, as Knicks head coach Derek Fisher noted after the game, via the Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring:
Not that the Zinger didn't have his fair share of shining moments in the Triangle.
Like this cut to the hoop for an easy finish off a pretty bounce pass from Kevin Seraphin (h/t New York Knicks):
And this three from the top of the key (h/t New York Knicks):
And this conjuring of Hakeem Olajuwon (h/t Bleacher Report):
When New York fell into an eight-point hole in the second quarter, Porzingis came through with nine points to help narrow the gap to 48-46 at halftime. With the game tied in the third, he was there with a big three to give the home team the lead for good.
And when Porzingis stepped to the line to complete a three-point play in the fourth, the Garden party greeted him with a chant—not "M-V-P," but "Por-Zing-Is." Carmelo Anthony, for one, was pleased to see and hear his youngest running mate get so much love, via Newsday's Al Iannazzone:
If you think this is it for him, if you think Michael Rapaport's "Lativian" man crush has already peaked...well, you don't know KP6.
(In case you are wondering, that is, in fact, the nickname Porzingis prefers...for now.)
With any luck, Porzingis will have many more monster nights to get MSG buzzing and the Knicks winning in the weeks, months and years to come. There isn't another player in the NBA who combines size (7'3"), athleticism and outside shooting as seamlessly as he does.
To be sure, he's more of a Porzing-work-in-progress than an outright Porzingawd at this point. His stroke, while exceedingly smooth for a player of his stature, is still only coming through 40.7 percent of the time from the field and 26.5 percent of the time from three.
Porzingis, though, figures to bring that part of his game up to speed in due course. In the opinion of Knicks teammate Arron Afflalo, the former Eurocup Rising Star is the sort of person who will put in the work to maximize his gifts (h/t the New York Knicks):
Until then, he can (and probably will) continue to turn tides with his shot blocking and rebounding. According to NBA.com, Porzingis already ranks among the league's best rim protectors and most effective offensive rebounders.
With a helping hand from Carmelo Anthony—who tallied 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists against Charlotte—Porzingis should find himself on solid footing as a cornerstone of the Knicks' future.
That is, assuming he isn't an indispensable part of the organization just 12 games into his pro career. He certainly isn't waiting around, per Herring:
As for his hype train, that might not be leaving the station anytime soon.
Wizards Spread the Wealth Without Bradley Beal
The Washington Wizards have survived without Bradley Beal, but never have they thrived in his absence.
Until Tuesday night, anyway.
With Beal bound to the bench by a left shoulder contusion for the third game in a row, the rest of the Wizards picked up the slack—and then some—in a 115-86 stomping of the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
John Wall tallied 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds in just 31 minutes without his backcourt buddy. The rest of Washington's perimeter players did plenty to pick up the rest of the slack.
Garrett Temple, Beal's stand-in at shooting guard, wasn't too shabby either, with 10 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals on the evening.
Jared Dudley, a former Buck, scored eight of his 13 points (and dished out an assist) during a two-minute spurt that started an 18-4 run for the Wizards. That Dudley dime came courtesy of Otto Porter Jr., who finished with 19 points, four assists and three steals while helping to hold Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo to nine points on 3-of-13 shooting. Gary Neal's 10 points in relief of Wall gave Washington six scorers in double figures, along with a near-double-double for Marcin Gortat (12 points, nine boards).
The win was the Wizards' second in a row without Beal. Better yet, the 29-point margin of victory was their second-largest in 57 outings sans the St. Louis native.
The more Wall's current supporting cast can come up aces in the coming games, the closer their overall mark without Beal (23-34 at present) will move toward .500—and the better Washington's spot in the standings will be.
Tough Night for East's Beasts
If you were an Eastern Conference finalist last season, you probably weren't pleased with how things played out Tuesday.
In Detroit, the Pistons overcame a 23-point first half from LeBron James to punk the Cleveland Cavaliers in the fourth quarter, 29-18, and come away with an impressive 104-99 win over the reigning Eastern Conference champs. About 500 miles further east, Thaddeus Young converted two key free throws to put the Brooklyn Nets ahead for good, 90-88, in a sloppy victory that came at the expense of the Atlanta Hawks.
In both cases, the losers were victimized by dominant centers.
Cleveland couldn't contain Detroit's Andre Drummond, who racked up 25 points and 18 rebounds. Atlanta, on the other hand, struggled to slow down Brook Lopez, who had 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Neither spell of individual brilliance came as any shock. Drummond, the league leader in rebounding, had three 20-20 games in his first six outings of the season. Lopez went for 27 and 11 in Atlanta earlier this month and averaged 19.8 points and nine boards against the Hawks in the 2015 playoffs.
Still, while the big nights by these big men weren't all that surprising, the sight of two teams with a combined record of 113-51 last season going down to two others that finished 70-94 was something to behold.
Look on the Whiteside
The "Stat Line of the Night," though, belonged to Hassan Whiteside.
The man in the middle for the Miami Heat marauded his way to 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting, 14 rebounds and a whopping 10 blocks. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Whiteside's monstrous triple-double—his second in as many seasons with the Heat—put him in exclusive company:
But unlike last season's triple-double, the Heat didn't wind up on the right side of Whiteside's impressive production. Instead, they surrendered 41 fourth-quarter points to the up-and-coming Minnesota Timberwolves in a 103-91 defeat.
And while Whiteside was a menace at the rim for most of the game, he did get a taste of his own medicine from an unlikely source (h/t the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds):
Brow Down, Gallo Up
Injuries were the story of the night on both sides of the Denver Nuggets' 115-98 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The good news: Danilo Gallinari appears to be all the way back from the knee problems that have held him back since 2013. He led the Nuggets in points (32), rebounds (eight) and assists (eight) while knocking down 12 of 19 shots from the field, including going 6-of-6 during a 15-point third quarter.
The bad news: Anthony Davis exited yet another game under disconcerting circumstances. This time, The Brow went down with a left shoulder injury in the first quarter, as confirmed by the team—before he could record a single point.
The Pelicans were already in a hole, with Omer Asik, Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole all sidelined. Davis' setback all but sealed the deal for Denver, now 6-5. New Orleans dropped to 1-10.
Dubs Survive Backcourt Battle
To end the night, the Toronto Raptors' Slash Brothers gave the Golden State Warriors' Splash Brothers a serious run for their money at Oracle Arena.
All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 56 points and 25 free-throw attempts for Toronto. But their aggressive play wasn't quite enough to seal an 18-point comeback with a W, not while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson roamed the court.
Thompson put Golden State ahead early with 18 of his 19 points in the first half. Once the Raptors climbed all the way out of their fourth-quarter hole, Curry pushed them right back in. Of Curry's game-high 37 points, 10 came among the final 17 scored by the Warriors in their 115-110 win—their 12th in as many tries this season.
If there's any weakness that could undercut Golden State's pursuit of the best start in NBA history (15-0, by the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and 1993-94 Houston Rockets), it's the team's tendency to ease off the gas after building big leads.
Then again, it's the regular season, and there's nothing wrong with being good (if not great) enough to go up big from game to game like it's your job.
And, if all else fails, there's always Curry, the reigning MVP, and Thompson, an All-Star and All-NBA performer, to put out the fire with a splash of magic.
Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.