Beas(t)ley! Super-Sub’s Monster Night Carries Knicks

Michael Beasley likes to tell New York Knicks fans he’s their “favorite player’s favorite player.”

On Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, he couldn’t have picked a better time to do his part in playing a role reversal with those two entities.

Of course, the usual favorite of Knicks fans is franchise forward Kristaps Porzingis. But with Porzingis (returning from an injury-imposed two-game absence) having the worst shooting game of his three-year NBA career — scoring a season-low one point while going without a field goal for the third time in his career (on 11 shots) — Beasley stepped up with an historic night which, in addition to some good defense from his fellow reserves, rallied New York (17-14) to a 102-93 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics (26-9).

Suddenly, Beasley — who heard his name and “M-V-P!” chanted — at least for one night, became the fans’ new favorite while Porzingis was relegated to Beasley’s former role of the favorite player’s favorite player.

“Michael Beasley had my back tonight,” Porzingis said appreciatively.

After the Knicks raced to a 13-2 start three minutes in, and led by as much as 21-7 in the opening quarter, the Celtics scored eight straight points early in the second period to get within four points, which remained the margin by halftime.

Starting the third quarter on a 22-9 spurt, Boston surged ahead, 62-53, with 5:37 left in the period.

That’s when head coach Jeff Hornacek sought a spark from his bench, in particular from Beasley, who by then, had only four points in 7½ minutes off the bench.

Although he thought hard about reinserting his regulars at several different points, Beasley’s play, along with good defense from other reserves — specifically guards Frank Ntilikina and Ron Baker and forward Doug McDermott — made Hornacek’s choice an easy one.

As a result, New York has its bench on the floor in the fourth quarter for all but 40 seconds played in the period by starting shooting guard Courtney Lee.

“Our bench did a great job,” Hornacek said. “About every ten seconds, I said, “Should I put [the starters] back [in]? But [the bench] was playing well.”

Beasley immediately rewarded Hornacek’s decision, making four of five shots while scoring 10 of New York’s 24 points in the third quarter — all in the final 4:25 of the frame — to ultimately help the Knicks close the period on an 11-2 run which pulled New York even with Boston at 68-apeice going into the fourth quarter.

In that period, Beasley added 18 of the Knicks’ 34 points. Half of that scoring came during a decisive 15-6 run which moved a precarious two-point edge to a comfortable 94-83 lead with 3:45 remaining.

In all, Beasley finished with 32 points to cancel out the same from Boston’s star point guard Kyrie Irving. Beasley’s 13-for-20 shooting (finishing 11-for-15) also offset the combined 2-for-20 shooting from Porzingis and Lee (12 points on 2-for-9 shooting).

That wasn’t all. Beasley also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and added some moments of solid defense in his 25 minutes.

Beasley’s tremendous output in such limited time etched him into the record books as the first player in NBA history to come off the bench and post at least 32 points and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes or less since game starts were first recorded in the 1970 -71 season.

“He was phenomenal,” Lee said of Beasley. “When we needed him late, he stepped up. Not only just scoring, but he got a lot of big rebounds, he made a lot of good [defensive] rotations… he was making plays tonight.”

New York is hoping that Beasley, who scored 23 and 30 points in his prior two games, has finally figured something out after a brilliant one-and-done college career had led to only a marginal journeyman stint as a professional.

A former dominant scorer with Kansas State and No. 2 overall draft pick in 2008, the 28 year-old, 6-foot-9 forward bounced around for three separate stints with the Miami Heat (which drafted Beasley), four other NBA teams and two more abroad prior to finding his latest basketball home with the Knicks last summer.

Perhaps Beasley, who has had past troubles with marijuana use, is finally starting to mature in his prime.

“I work extremely hard [in between games] and you’re starting to see the results of it,” he said.

Asked when he started to feel like he had the hot hand (in the game), Beasley shamelessly responded with his birthdate.

“January 9, 1989,” he said.

Beasley’s ability to break out offensively any moment was duly noted by each coach.

“He was the second pick in the draft years ago, so he’s talented and you saw it tonight,” Hornacek said.

On Beasley’s ability to score in bunches, head coach Brad Stevens added, “He’s a tremendous individual scorer when he gets going like that.”

Indeed, to the point that the Garden crowd started treating Beasley like it had done for Porzingis before — something that Lee had no problem with hearing.

Lee said, “If [Beasley’s] busting his tail like that and helping us win games, why not say “M-V-P?” Make him feel good.”

Makes sense, especially when the favorite player’s favorite player becomes the fan favorite himself.

About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons).Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship).He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

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