NEW YORK • Round one of the Dirk Nowitzki-Kristaps Porzingis matchup delivered as advertised.
In a contest billed as the best European player in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA) against the upstart Latvian rookie, it was Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks who overtook Porzingis and the Knicks 104-97 on Monday.
The 2.21m Porzingis, playing against his childhood idol from Germany, led the Knicks (10-12) with 28 points.
He single-handedly brought New York back from a 23-point deficit, making consecutive three-pointers as the Knicks got within 97-101 with 43 seconds to play.
On the ensuing possession, Porzingis blocked Deron Williams at the rim. But Carmelo Anthony was called for an offensive foul, and the Knicks were finally out of answers as Nowitzki and Williams closed it out from the free-throw line.
Anthony struggled in the loss.
He scored 17 points but shot just six of 18 from the field and committed a game-high five turnovers.
Nowitzki topped Dallas (13-9) with 25 points and six rebounds.
Williams poured in 20 points and added seven assists.
Porzingis hit 13 of 18 shots from the floor and blocked two shots.
Nowitzki sank nine of 18 field-goal attempts.
The duo resembled each other in obvious ways: similar size, similar ball skills, similar shooting touch.
It was only fitting that they defended each other at the start, and then they each went about their familiar business of stretching the floor and creating for team-mates.
"The comparisons are more than fair," said 2.13m-tall Nowitzki, the top international scorer in NBA history. "When I was 20, I was scared to death out there. He's almost averaging a double-double out there. He's better than I was in my 20s so the comparison is probably unfair to him. He's a complete package."
Once upon a time, Nowitzki, 37, revolutionised the power forward position as a tall player capable of shooting from distance.
A perennial All-Star, he has scored more than 28,000 points.
He has also won a championship.
"Obviously, he's showing some respect to me," said Porzingis, who entered the game averaging 14 points and 9.2 rebounds while shooting 44 per cent.
"That shows that maybe I have potential to be as great as he is. I've got to keep working; hopefully, I can be as good as he thinks I can be."
REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES