Kristaps Porzingis Struggles as Knicks Beat Kyrie Irving, Celtics

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21:  Michael Beasley #8 of the New York Knicks goes to the basket against the Boston Celtics on December 21, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics have the best record in the Eastern Conference, but they were no match for Michael Beasley and the New York Knicks during a 102-93 loss on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

Beasley—and not Kristaps Porzingis—looked like New York's multitalented leader and spearheaded a second-half charge with 32 points and 12 rebounds on 13-of-20 shooting from the field. His brilliance was key because Porzingis missed all 11 of his field-goal attempts and sat the entire fourth quarter on his way to one point after missing the previous two games with knee soreness.

Boston (26-9) dropped to just 4-5 in its last nine despite 32 points and four assists from Kyrie Irving.


Knicks Overcome Porzingis' Struggles

Boston appeared well on its way to victory with a 66-57 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter. That's when Beasley shifted into takeover mode.

He directed the offense in an 11-2 run to tie the game entering the fourth. Beasley continued to run the offense for extended stretches in the final frame with Porzingis on the bench while New York seized control.

Beasley even drew MVP chants from the Madison Square Garden faithful and drilled a crucial runner in the lane with just more than a minute remaining to stretch the lead to eight:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

"MVP!" chants for Beasley at The Garden 👀 https://t.co/bFKrGDIDju

Beating the Celtics is difficult enough with Porzingis playing well. That meant Beasley and the rest of the supporting cast needed a head-turning performance while the team's star was essentially a non-factor on offense. Beasley wasn't the only one who played well, as Enes Kanter tallied a double-double by halftime and provided impressive interior defense against Boston's frontcourt:


🚫 https://t.co/oMz8LaPvK5

He also got involved in the uptempo offense as the Knicks jumped out to a 13-2 advantage:


Run the floor and get rewarded. @Enes_Kanter and the @nyknicks are off to a quick start! 👀 https://t.co/k18aK5ohyp

Kanter finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Courtney Lee (12 points) and Jarrett Jack (12 points) added support when Boston focused its defensive attention on Porzingis.

Despite the win, Porzingis will likely be fine with not facing Boston anytime in the near future. He shot just 3-of-14 in New York's early-season loss to the Celtics and missed a number of open looks Thursday.

It was likely difficult to swallow, considering how much he wanted to play after his last poor performance.

"I want to play," Porzingis said Wednesday, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post. "Especially remembering the last game we had against them, we want to go out there and play strong tomorrow and have a good game. I'm excited for tomorrow's game."

He'll have to settle for the win.


Short-handed Celtics Don't Have Enough Firepower

There was plenty of pressure on Irving to carry the load, considering the Celtics were playing without Jaylen Brown. He was out with what the team announced as left Achilles soreness. Boston was also without Marcus Morris because of a knee injury.

Irving stood out with three straight three-pointers to start the second half as Boston appeared to take control. He also dazzled with a no-look pass on the break to Al Horford for a dunk:

Boston Celtics @celtics

No 👀 dime to Al for the jam! https://t.co/pgiWL9Xe0O

Still, only Jayson Tatum (17 points) scored more than 10 points among the supporting cast as the Celtics ran out of steam down the stretch.

Their typically strong defense also let them down. Boston entered the contest second in the league in defensive rating, per NBA.com, but Beasley's ability to penetrate off the bounce and drop in mid-range floaters helped the Knicks score 34 points in the fourth.

Boston will look to establish consistency after the recent up-and-down stretch with a Saturday contest against the Chicago Bulls. The Knicks will face the Detroit Pistons on Friday and will try to win their sixth game in seven tries.