And just like that Luke Kornet became the starting center of the NY Knicks. A 20-ppg, shot-blocking 7’1″ interior defender who is deadly from 3. A “stretch 5”. More accurate from 3 than Porzingis. An active defender who verbally orchestrates his teammates in the paint.
Luke Kornet and Noah Vonleh
Last night, Luke Kornet not only started, but played 34 minutes, scored 23 points on 7-11 from 3. Noah Vonleh (15 pts, 13 rebounds) was his power forward sidekick — playing great defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first half — at the break they were near even in points and rebounds. Enes Kanter only played 14 minutes off the bench.
Milwaukee pulled away in the second half and you never felt the Knicks had a chance, although they stayed within 10 points most of the night. Greek Freak got on a roll in the 4th and finished with his usual 30+ points anyway, making Vonleh’s terrific defense on him in the first half a forgotten tidbit.
The Greek and The Turk at War
Antetokounmpo plays with a Russell Westbrook-like FIRE but he sometimes goes overboard and plays too aggressively — and tries to block a shot on a runaway slam dunk that risks injury to the other player, or gets into altercations with players on the court. A month ago he had the altercation with Mario Hezonja after trying to block his runaway dunk — everyone wants to be Lebron James blocking Stephen Curry in the 2016 NBA finals game 7. In this game it was Kanter who Antetokounmpo got into an altercation with. Kanter got ejected in the 4th for taking down Antetokounmpo hard, and then the chest-to-chest words between the two. But it was Kanter with the bloody red eye from a Thon Maker elbow.
The Greeks and the Turks go way back.
How did Ntilikina Do?
Frank Ntilikina played well in this game — 21 minutes, 5 pts, 5 rebounds and looked smooth, confident and aggressive on the court. Emmanuel Mudiay played ok — 13 pts on 6-15, and Kanter did his thing (8 pts on 4-9 and 5 rebounds in those 14 minutes). Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer has the Bucks playing a Tough defense and some Knick shooters had poor nights: Kevin Knox was 4-15 for 12 pts, Damyean Dotson was 1-9 for 4 pts, and Allonzo Trier was 2-10 for 7 pts. Trier got fouled but no call on two drives — and complained to the ref each time causing him not to get back quickly enough on defense. Coach David Fizdale pulled him for that in the 4th.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was nowhere to be seen, on the court or in the boxscore. He is either injured or the Knicks traded him.
For Milwaukee, Khris Middleton had a good game (25 pts) after a poor game on Christmas against the Knicks and Brook Lopez was tough. Malcolm Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and D.J. Wilson all played well.