New York Knicks‘ Kristaps Porzingis showed guts by telling the media he was ‘ready’ for Warriors’ Draymond Green. Unfortunately, he wasn’t.
New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis is a matchup problem for most of the players he goes up against. His combination of size, ball-handling, and shot-making are what makes him such a difficult cover.
This is the case for most. Most, except for Golden State Warriors superstar defender Draymond Green.
In three career head-to-heads, Green has held Porzingis to 8.0 points per game on 25 percent shooting. That’s including a brutal eight-point (4-13) performance Thursday night.
Before the game, Porzingis might have spoken too soon when he said that he was “ready” to face Green this time around.
“Right after the game was over (last season) I was thinking when was the next time we were going to get a chance to play against them,” he said. “I’m ready for him.”
Porzingis clearly wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to Green with his comments. If anything they were a compliment.
But KP’s words got back to the always-fiery Green and the All-Star took them a different way.
According to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, Porzingis’ quote motivated Green for Thursday’s game.
“It made me want to go a little harder this game and guard him. So it was good,” Green said. “I appreciate (my Nike rep) for showing me that because I was a little bit in la-la land before he showed me that and it immediately pissed me off.”
Green responded by muscling Porzingis around in the post for the third straight time again and making him uncomfortable.
Let’s take a look at some of the one-on-one battles between the two from Thursday night.
After missing his first two shots, Porzingis buried his third a step back jumper while Green was struggling to regain his footing from KP’s fake to the basket.
Check out this clip from later in the first quarter where Porzingis tries to post Green up and is forced into a fade away jumper. Too much dribbling.
With 9:37 left in the third quarter, KP tried a different strategy. He puts the ball on the floor just once (showing his IQ) but throws up another air ball after Green is able to force him into another fade away.
Just three minutes later, KP catches the ball with his back to the basket again, quickly turns around and fires. No good.
It’s not a surprise that Porzingis failed Thursday night. He was obviously determined to play down low with Green, and that’s something that will never work. Green is one the best in the game at guarding in the post.
According to NBA.com, on 175 possessions in 2015-16 Green held opponents to just 31.9 percent shooting with their back to the basket. That was in the 89.3 percentile of points per possession in the league. Right now opponents are shooting even lower (31.0 percent).
KP was probably hoping for some shots like this one. Unfortunately, Green isn’t Derrick Williams.
Porzingis was confident in his post game for a reason. He’s averaging 3.3 post touches per game this season and scoring 3.5 points.
He leads the Knicks in both categories. Porzingis certainly improved from the post after all the work he did over the summer but still should’ve stuck with his bread and butter against one of the league’s best defenders. That’s the three-point shot.
KP attempted just two (0-2) of his 14 shots from three-point range Thursday night, well below his season’s average of 5.4. The Knicks were a pathetic 23.8 percent (5-21) from downtown against the Warriors. They could’ve used some of his perimeter play.
It’s an adjustment to he’ll need to make for next time.
It took guts for the 21-year-old Porzingis to mention Green at all when talking about a matchup. It shows how much confidence the kid his in his game. Next time he’ll need to play smarter.
Per NBA.com, Green leads the league in DFA per game (Porzingis is second) and holds opponents to -4.3 percent less than the league average. Like KP, he’s also excellent defending the restricted area. Which is even more impressive considering his size 6-foot-7, 230 lbs. Opponents are shooting just 45.3 percent at the rim against Green.
If you want to slow down Draymond Green you have to force him out to the perimeter. Make him uncomfortable. Porzingis is capable of doing that.
Despite a poor performance from Porzingis, Draymond, like teammate Kevin Durant, has respect for KP. He just wasn’t okay with the youngster talking about him.
“I like the passion, I like the dog that he has, I like that he wants to see me again,” Green said. “But keep that to yourself.”
The former Big Ten Player of the Year described his successful strategy when guarding the Unicorn.
“Just really try to be aggressive. Try to crowd his space,” Green said. “At the end of the day, he’s 7-3. So if you don’t try to crowd his face and do your work early before he starts shooting the ball, your contest won’t matter. So every time he caught the ball, I tried to take his space away, try to make him uncomfortable.”
All class after the game Porzingis showed respect to his nemesis.
“He gets into you every time. Before you get the ball, when you get the ball, he’s into you,” Porzingis said. “He’s always using his hands. He’s just a smart defender,” Porzingis said. “And he knows how to be in a position where he can make you feel uncomfortable.”
The next matchup between Porzingis and Green will be at Madison Square Garden on National TV. It’s Sunday, March 5, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC. Don’t forget about this one.
Carmelo Anthony is expected to return when the Knicks continue their West Coast road trip against the Denver Nuggets (10-16) on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 9:00 p.m. ET.
- All of my stats come from Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.