-- NEW YORK -- After scoring a career-high 40 points in the? New York Knicks' come-from-behind win over the Indiana Pacers, Kristaps Porzingis said he's "very comfortable" as the team's No. 1 option.
"I'm seeing a different type of defense almost every night. No matter who I'm playing against they're trying to be physical with me. I'm just trying to make the right decision, whether it's me being aggressive and attacking or passing the ball," Porzingis said after scoring 17 fourth-quarter points in the Knicks' win. "Just trying to play my game and staying calm mentally."
Porzingis has scored at least 30 points in seven of the Knicks' first nine games and is the key factor behind New York winning five of its past six games. Porzingis is the NBA's No. 2-leading scorer, averaging 30.2 points per game;? Milwaukee's? Giannis Antetokounmpo?leads the league with a 31.0 scoring average.
"I think again the game has slowed [for him and] he's playing with confidence," Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. "He's willing to take those shots and make the plays. That's the step that he's taken in becoming the main focus."
Porzingis scored 15 straight Knicks points during one stretch between the third and fourth quarters on Sunday to help New York come back from a 19-point deficit with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter. The 7-foot-3 forward outscored Indiana by himself, 24-17, after the Pacers established the 19-point lead.
Porzingis added six blocks and eight rebounds and the Knicks outscored Indiana by 20 points in his 38 minutes.
"He's scratching the surface right now," said Courtney Lee, who compared Porzingis to Yao Ming while noting that the Knicks forward is more skilled on the perimeter. "He's still got a lot of room to improve and that's the scary thing about him."
After the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony in September, one of the biggest questions heading into the season was how Porzingis would handle life as the No. 1 option on offense.
At his end-of-season news conference in April, then-team president Phil Jackson said he didn't think Porzingis was ready to handle the burden of being the face of the franchise and the focal point on offense.
"No, I don't [think he's ready]. He's 21 years old. That's a big load for anybody to take on," Jackson said at the time. "But he's shown that he's competitive."
Porzingis, who skipped his exit meeting with Jackson at the end of season over frustration with the state of the franchise, said on Sunday that Jackson's remarks motivated him.
"Of course. The challenge is never too big for me," Porzingis, 22, said. "I always accept the challenge and that's why I knew coming into this season [if] Melo was not going to be here, then I'm going to have to be that guy and that's why I was just [spending] 24 hours in the gym. I was preparing for this, preparing myself physically, and I'm just happy that I'm capable of playing at this level right now."