Will the real Elfrid Payton please stand up?
One night after the Knicks starting point guard put in his worst performance as Knick in a pointless disaster, he stepped forward on Sunday to stun the Bucks’ power play in a 130-110 defense that gave Tom Thibodeau his first win as Knicks head coach concerned.
It was not a dream. Payton, who had the slow start of the season buzzing on social media, scored 26 points, scoring all three of his three-pointers and shooting 12 of 16.
Payton also dished out three assistants. His two late 3-pointers in the third essentially salted away the game. Payton’s biggest weakness is his misery from outside the arc, as he shot just 21 percent from deep last season.
Payton was not the only Knick who looked like a new man, as ‘The Greek Freak’ got a bunch of humble pie at the Garden. Even Sunday’s backup guard Frank Ntilikina came off the bench to drill all four of his three-point shots.
RJ Barrett also put Saturday’s clunkfest behind him with 17 points. And Julius Randle continued his stellar game (27 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists) and was not shy about defending Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was brought out early in the fourth quarter in a sign of surrender.
Too bad the Garden was mostly desolate because this could have been one of the few highlights of the season, as the Knicks moved to 1-2 after a double-digit loss against Indiana and Philadelphia in which they collapsed in the second half.
Instead, Sunday’s Knicks only got better in the second half and increased a 28-point exhaustion early in the fourth after leading 61-45 at halftime.
Antetokounmpo was “held” to 25 points, 13 rebounds and five assists when the Knicks broke their four-game losing streak against Milwaukee.
The Knicks will not play at the Garden again in 2020, as they begin a four-game drive away from Tuesday in Cleveland and continue to Tampa for a New Year’s Eve game against the Raptors before completing the trip in Indiana and Atlanta .
The Knicks put up an 11-0 run late in the first half that was clinched by Alec Burks’ three-point leader. Then Randle buried a last three seconds off balance while the Knicks took the lead by 16 points.
It was an exciting setback from both Payton and Barrett, who were terrible in the home side against the Sixers. Burks also came off the bench to drop a smooth 18 points – 15 in the first half.
The stricken Payton were without points on Saturday night, he had 0 for 6 and lost all three of his points, while only getting one assist.
On Sunday, Payton hit two early drivers and then tapped off a rare three-pointer. At halftime, he amassed 11 points and three assistants.
The points guard game was a disaster against the Sixers, but spectacularly eliminated against Milwaukee. With Dennis Smith Jr. with a bruised group, Ntilikina inherited the rugby point and delivered 18 strong minutes off the bench as he scorched from deep – 4 of 4 from the 3-point line.
Barrett was a bigger disaster than Payton Saturday in a 2 of 15 brickfest. He remained aggressive and bragged for his points on Sunday.
Antetokounmpo succeeded in the first possession, he got a bouncing pass from Khris Middletown and put it in. But the Knicks mostly controlled the “Greek Freak,” which kept him from destroying the edge.
The Bucks were also an awful 8 of 38 from the three-point line. The Knicks shook off an awful three-point shooting performance on Saturday to drill into 15 of 26 against Milwaukee.
“The biggest thing is the way he attacks the paint,” Thibodeau said in advance of the Bucks superstar. “You can not protect him individually – we have to guard him with our team. So it will take a lot of effort, multiple attempts. ”
The effort was four quarters there this term.