When David Fizdale was asked if Christmas Day games actually favored the road teams, the Knicks coach smirked and gave a blunt answer: the Bucks have the advantage simply because they are, right now, the better team.
As the losses mount — this is now 5 straight and 10 of the last 11 — the jokes build up as well. Someone in the Bucks’ social media department thought it would be clever to kick the rebuilding team while it’s down by penning a silly story about how their star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, would become the “King of New York” (eyeroll).
Funny how everyone wants to talk about being the King of New York, but none can actually do it. Kings don’t visit a throne. Kings live in the kingdom and take on all comers. The Knicks are still searching for a King.
The story, which was quickly deleted, made reference to the incident on Dec. 1 when Mario Hezonja stepped over Antetokounmpo after a dunk. Antetokounmpo afterward said he planned to punch Hezonja in the groin the next time he saw him. Even though the story was deleted, the point was emphasized: the Knicks are an easy target and a punching bag (no pun intended) right now.
But Antetokounmpo never got his revenge on Hezonja, or his private parts. Instead, he engaged in a physical battle with Noah Vonleh and finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds. He scored 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting in a third quarter that broke open what had been a sluggish game in the first half, as the Bucks outscored the Knicks 36-22 to take an 84-68 lead.
Neither team shot the ball well from three-point range, but the Bucks were very efficient inside the arc (59.6%), scored 54 Points in the Paint and scored 15 points off Knicks turnovers.
– In his first Christmas Day experience, 19-year-old Kevin Knox led the Knicks with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, though he hit just 8 of 20 from the field and was 1 for 5 from three. That makes three straight 20-point performances for Knox, who is averaging 20.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game over the last 8 games.
– While the Knicks’ most recent lottery pick has been finding his scoring touch, their 2017 first round pick found himself back on the bench. Frank Ntilikina was a DNP-CD for the fourth time this season and Fizdale explained it by saying the 20-year-old “has been struggling.” Fizdale added, “Trey‘s back, let’s look at it, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing with these guys. When one guy has a certain amount of games where he’s struggled: ‘Next guy up, let’s give him a look.’ Like normal, it’ll never be a permanent thing.” After he posted games of 18 points and 17 points, respectively, coming off three straight DNP’s, Ntilikina has gone back into an offensive drought where he averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 assists in 18.4 minutes per game over the next 5 games. He shot 21.4% from the field and 18.2% from three in those five games. To be fair, Burke didn’t do much with Frank’s minutes against the Bucks, as he was 1 for 7 for 2 points in 14 minutes. Fizdale insists the Knicks are not giving up on him. “Frank is very important to us,” he said, “and we’ve just got to find ways to get that confidence back.”
– Another reason for pushing Ntilikina further down the depth chart was the return of rookie Allonzo Trier, who missed two weeks with a groin injury. Trier scored 8 points on 4 of 10 shooting in 18 minutes.
– No matter where the Knicks are in the standings, the NBA still features the Knicks on Christmas Day. It’s a New York tradition, though there hasn’t been much to celebrate: the Knicks have lost six straight games on Christmas Day. So maybe there is something to be said about the road team advantage (though one of those games was against the Lakers in L.A.). The last win the Knicks had on Christmas Day came on the same day the NBA opened the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. The Knicks beat the Celtics, 106-104, led by Carmelo Anthony‘s 37 points, with 21 points from Amar’e Stoudemire.