Porzingis, Hardaway help Knicks stun suddenly mortal Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND — You can’t believe what happened Sunday in Believeland.

Armed with a devastating 1-2 punch of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks smashed their 10-game losing streak to the Cavaliers, hammering the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs in a 114-95 victory at a quiet Quicken Loans Arena.

“We’re capable of beating a lot of teams if we play like we did tonight,” Porzingis said.

After an awful start to his second stint as a Knick, Hardaway looked the part of a $71 million player with a brilliant 34-point, eight-assist, four-rebound, two-steal performance, outplaying LeBron James. Hardaway was 11-of-19 from the field — 5-of-10 from the 3-point line.

“I’m happy for Tim,” Porzingis said. “He showed what he’s capable of doing.”

“He’s been waiting for that breakout game,” Courtney Lee said. “It takes the pressure off everybody, especially for KP. I’m happy he got it today. Now he’s got his confidence and rhythm.”

Hardaway blew an easy bunny in the opening minutes before catching fire and racking up 24 by halftime.

“I did a better job of attacking,” Hardaway said. “I took the 3s when they were there. I had a lot more confidence. When the first one goes down, it opens up a lot.”

Enes Kanter, who scored 18 points, dunks during the Knicks’ 114-95 win over the Cavaliers on Sunday.Getty Images

Porzingis also was spectacular, showing massive improvement on the low block he said he made this summer at the European Championships.

Porzingis racked up 32 points (only two 3-pointers), collecting 12 rebounds and two blocks. Porzingis, who scored 30-plus points in four of the five games, outmuscled Cavaliers defenders inside — whether it be Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love or Jeff Green.

After an 0-3 start, the Knicks (2-3) have won two straight, riding the momentum from their Brooklyn win. But this was much loftier territory. They held the Cavs to 38.3 percent shooting, with coach Jeff Hornacek praising the “defensive intensity.”

The Knicks are feeling so good now, Porzingis even dropped the P-word after he finally beat the Cavaliers — a club he struggled against mightily in his first two seasons.

“A lot of ‘L’s,” Porzingis said. “It’s nice finally to beat the Cavs for the first time in my career. Hopefully we can be in the playoffs, and that’s when it really matters.”

A detached James never took over as the skidding Cavaliers dropped to 3-4. The Cavaliers, without Kyrie Irving, are now a mess. Ex-Knick Derrick Rose returned to the lineup for Cleveland but was ineffective. He scored 15 points but had four turnovers and was a minus-22.

James scored 16 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists. He bounced a ball off his foot out of bounds and his body language was off. After the game, James was hardly in panic mode, stating: “What month is this?”

The Knicks had balance across their starting lineup. Enes Kanter scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Lee added 15 points and 10 rebounds — his first career double-double. French rookie point guard Frank Ntililkina had his moments (two steals, three assists and five points in 16 minutes in his third NBA game).

Their new starting point guard, Jarrett Jack, shot poorly (1-of-8), but Hornacek credited him for keeping the offense composed in the fourth quarter after the Cavaliers cut an 18-point deficit to six midway through the fourth after a 13-2 run.

“Going forward, Tim, Courtney, Jarrett, once we have that connection where all of us are making shots, then it’s going to be pretty hard to stop,” Porzingis said.

The Knicks were in chaos just five days ago in Boston, where they fell to 0-3 and players claimed they didn’t know the plays. Hardaway, who was shooting 26 percent and averaging 9.5 points in the first four games, vowed he’d soon break loose.

“Everybody was able to back up their talk,” Hardaway said.

On Sunday morning, Knicks president Steve Mills said Hornacek is in no immediate danger and touted Hardaway as ready to emerge.

“I’ve talked to him, texted him after games, he needs to calm down and let the game come to him,” Mills said. “He’s pushing it right now.”

For his part, Hardaway said he’s been staying late after practices, taking extra shots.

“I’m happy to see them go in,’’ Hardaway said.



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