The Knicks may have lost yet again, but Mario Hezonja walked off the Amway Center floor in Orlando on Wednesday night with his own personal win.
Facing the team that drafted him fifth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, Hezonja came out of the tunnel with a vendetta and it resulted in a career-high 29 points on 11-for-22 from the field as well as nine boards, five assists and two steals.
Head coach David Fizdale said he told Hezonja to get ready to put on a show for his former fans, and he certainly answered the call over 33:56 minutes on the hardwood.
"I'm just really happy for him," Fizdale told The Post's Marc Berman. "I told him: Perform for Orlando. He came out and showed what he can do."
Hezonja not only impressed his head coach, but also his old teammates. Evan Fournier had to admit this was the best he's seen the Croatian small forward.
"He played the best game of his career," Fournier said. "Very aggressive."
For Hezonja, it was an emotional game in Orlando. Every Knicks player wants to finish the year strong, and what better place to get some inspiration than your former home. Magic fans obviously remember Hezonja from the past three years, which is a particular one yelled "Mario, you suck" when he was shooting a free throw.
Hezonja wasn't fazed, though. He answered back, "Are you watching the game?"
"There was a lot of emotions out there, but thank God I lined them with basketball," Hezonja said.
A good impression on the Knicks in these final games could see another contract come Hezonja's way this offseason. He signed a one-year, prove-it deal worth $6.5 million this year.
However, he has had an up-and-down season, averaging 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists over 20 minutes. He is also shooting 40.3 percent from the field. There have been spurts, like his performances against the Lakers and his posterizing dunk against Cleveland, that raise some eyebrows. But there has also been shotty play from the 24-year-old mixed in as well.
But the saying goes, "It's not how you start. It's how you finish." And Hezonja's finish to this dismal season may see the Knicks discussing a plan to bring him back next season.