Thursday January 7th, 2016

Kristaps Porzingis is remarkably bold for an NBA rookie. At no point in his first professional season has he appeared daunted; the errors he makes tend to come from inexperience rather than timidity, and rarely does Porzingis dwell on those mistakes to the point of playing tense.

On nights like these, it’s that very quality that puts Porzingis on the wrong side of the highlight reel. In the second half of Wednesday’s 98–90 win against the Miami Heat, Porzingis drew the unenviable assignment of checking All-Star forward Chris Bosh at the elbow. For as tall and capable as Porzingis is, Bosh got the better of him with a quick step to his left and a one-handed flush:

Just a few minutes later, Porzingis was positioned as the help defender against one of Miami’s side pick-and-rolls. A lob from Dwyane Wade to Hassan Whiteside caught him off-guard, leaving Porzingis at the mercy of one of the league’s most prolific alley-oop finishers:

And worse yet: Porzingis’ own highlight dunk attempt didn’t quite work out as intended. Nevertheless, Porzingis isn’t the type to be phased by catching a dunk to the face now and again when it comes in the service of playing team defense. From Jared Dubin:

“There will be and-1s over me and stuff like that just because I’m trying to help and protect the rim,” he said. “But I’m trying to block as many shots as I can.”

In this particular game, Porzingis posted two blocks in 31 minutes. The highlights go to Bosh and Whiteside, but the last laugh was his; Porzingis’s Knicks snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Heat in part by protecting the interior and keeping Miami’s offense in check. 

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Porzingis finished with 12 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 25 for New York while Chris Bosh led Miami with 28 points.

Wednesday marked New York’s third straight victory as well.

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