Knicks coast by COVID-riddled Hawks to tip off NBA’s Christmas slate

December 25, 2021
Knicks coast by COVID-riddled Hawks to tip off NBA's Christmas slate
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Kemba Walker became the seventh NBA player with a triple-double on Christmas, and the New York Knicks beat the depleted Atlanta Hawks 101-87 on Saturday for their first win on the holiday in a decade.

Julius Randle had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks in a matchup of teams that met in the first round of last season’s playoffs. But the Hawks were missing Trae Young among nine players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, so it wasn’t much of a rematch of Atlanta’s five-game victory.

Walker finished with 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. The 6-foot guard raced around the floor trying desperately for his 10th rebound for much of the second half, finally getting it in the fourth quarter when Mitchell Robinson’s block came to him.

It was the first triple-double on Christmas since Golden State’s Draymond Green in 2017, continuing Walker’s strong stretch since going from out of the rotation to back in the starting lineup when the Knicks were short-handed.

Fans in the sold-out crowd chanted “Kemba Walker! Kemba Walker!” for the New York native, who scored 44 points in a loss to Washington on Thursday.

Evan Fournier and Quentin Grimes each scored 15 points for the Knicks, who snapped a six-game Christmas skid. They are 23-31 in their league-high 54 appearances, but hadn’t won one since 2011.

John Collins and Delon Wright each scored 20 points for the Hawks, who were playing on Christmas for the first time since 1989. They had their six-game road winning streak snapped.

Young starred in his first playoff series last spring against New York, ignoring profane taunts by Knicks fans and getting the last word when he bowed to them near the close of Atlanta’s clinching Game 5 victory.

But he couldn’t clear protocols in time for a coveted spot on the Christmas calendar.

The Hawks needed him to be playing.

The Hawks’ injury report took three tweets from the team’s official account to list, and besides Young featured key players such as Kevin Huerter, Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari. Clint Capela returned from protocols and had six points and nine rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Knicks are getting healthier. Grimes made his first appearance since setting a Knicks rookie record with seven 3-pointers and scoring 27 points against Milwaukee on Dec. 12. He was then placed into protocols and missed the last five games.



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