Knicks News: Alec Burks injury update, Zion Williamson stirring the ‘Melting Pot’

Zion Williamson, knicks, julius randle

The New York Knicks are gearing up for a contest against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday evening at 7:30 PM. With the Knicks coming off a victory against the New Orleans Pelicans, they have since extended their win streak to six games.

Thanks to a stellar performance from Julius Randle, who won the Eastern Conference player of the week award, the Knicks are rolling and actually cracked the top 10 power rankings in the NBA.

The last time the Knicks were considered a top 10 team, it must’ve been 2014, and they are sniffing the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They currently sit in sixth place, just .5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, but given their recent success, it is only a matter of time before they take hold of a higher seed.

The Knicks have been winning despite not having some of their more influential players, including Mitchell Robinson and Alec Burks against New Orleans. In fact, Burks will be again out on Tuesday against the Hornets. He’ll be unavailable due to the league’s health and safety protocols and could be available on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks, which could catapult the Knicks into fourth place.

The New York Knicks could end up courting Zion Williamson from New Orleans:

After the Knicks’ victory over the Pelicans, Williamson took to the media to express his love for playing at MSG and in New York. In fact, he was a bit ecstatic about the idea of playing in MSG regularly, suggesting to Knick fans he could end up with the squad at some point in the future.

“I mean, New York is the mecca of basketball,” Williamson said. “I love playing here. I played here in college. This is my first time playing in the pros. I mean, this atmosphere — whether they’re cheering for you, whether they’re booing for you, it’s amazing. Honestly, I think, outside of New Orleans obviously, I think this might be my favorite place to play. Outside of New Orleans. I can’t even lie to you. I can’t lie to you.”

Williamson is averaging 26.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game this season, and he’s becoming a dominant force in his second year in the NBA. While New Orleans fans probably didn’t want to hear this from their best player and the supposed future of their franchise, Knicks fans were excited and optimistic he could join the team later on.
Even ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski insisted that his comments are worth keeping an eye on down the road.

“He was pretty animated with it,” Wojnarowski said. “It’s certainly something, I think, down the road for people to keep their eye on. But right now, you know, he’s in New Orleans. He’s going to be in New Orleans and they have a window here with the young core that they have to improve, get better, and make him want to stay there.”

Knicks’ Alec Burks has the perfect response to being a secret weapon

New York Knicks, Alec Burks

When the New York Knicks signed 29-year-old guard Alec Burks to a one-year, $6 million deal, nobody expected him to be such an influential piece to the team. In fact, Burks has been one of the best players on the Knicks’ roster this season, averaging 12.6 points per game but regularly breaching 20 points over the past few days. Against the New Orleans Pelicans in the Knicks’ latest victory, Burks posted 21 points and seven total rebounds.

His influence varies, but when Burks is hitting shots efficiently, he is borderline unstoppable. He can create plays and instant offense for a team that lacks in the category. He also represents one of the best players in the fourth quarter for a team that has struggled to close out games this year. Burks detailed his approach toward the fourth quarter and why it’s so different than the rest.

“I think it’s the approach the coach takes earlier in the season, the fourth quarter is different than the other three quarters,’’ Burks said ahead of the Knicks facing the Mavericks on Friday in Dallas. “You got to bring your A-game because it’s going to be a physical quarter because everyone is trying to get the win. I’m trying to help my team any way I can.’’

When Alec decided to come to New York, it wasn’t about the notoriety or attention he would receive, it was about playing basketball for a great organization with a respected coach. He simply wants to win, and he envisioned his future as a playoff contender, a goal that seems likely during an unexpected season for New York.

“I don’t care — I’m not in this to be most popular,’’ said Burks. “I love the game, love helping my teammates. I just want to do what I can to help my team win and get a win out there and make it to the playoffs. I couldn’t care less about getting notoriety for it.’’

The Knicks currently rank sixth in the Eastern Conference standings, and if they can claw their way up to fourth place, which they’re only one game out of, they won’t have to play into the playoffs will have an automatic spot. Burks can keep producing at a high level and offering his instant offense in the fourth quarter, there’s no question the Knicks can do the impossible.

Knicks’ secret offensive weapon strikes again in fourth straight victory

New York Knicks, Alec Burks

For the first time this season, the New York Knicks have won four consecutive games, beating the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, and New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday evening.

Against New Orleans, the Knicks won by a 10 point margin but didn’t get the showcase they expected from point guard Lonzo Ball. Ball is an expected free-agent target for New York this upcoming off-season, and while he didn’t feature in the contest, there is a reason to believe he will be one of their top targets.

Nonetheless, the Knicks didn’t take it easy on New Orleans, who entered the game with a three-game win streak themselves. In fact, in the last two games, they had scored no less than 116 points, but the Knicks limited them to just 106.

Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram posted a majority of the Pelicans’ scoring production, totaling 53. As for the Knicks, the love was spread around, with Julius Randle earning 32 and Alec Burks posting 21 off the bench.

Burks has been an absolute menace for New York this season, especially in the fourth quarter. He shot 7-of-12 from the field and 4-of-7 from downtown, hitting all three of his free throws. He also picked up seven rebounds over 22 minutes played. On the season, Burks is averaging 12.4 points on .410 shooting from the field and .403 from downtown. He’s averaging a career-high 4.9 attempts from three, which indicates how successful he’s been from range.

The veteran guard is currently on a one-year, $6 million deal with New York, and they might consider extending him for next season based on his performance. He is nearly 30 years old, and will be entering the 10th season in the NBA, but as a former first-round pick back in 2011, it is clear he has plenty of value to offer.

He reminds me a bit of JR Smith back in the day when he won the sixth man award. His ability to come off the bench and create instant offense is special, and very valuable.

Knicks’ free agent gem blossoming into integral player as 2021 season wears on

New York Knicks, Alec Burks

The New York Knicks didn’t make any significant moves at the trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of winning big games. They came extremely close to overcoming the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers last week, and some say they’re missing that extra offensive piece to push them over the edge. However, you could argue that their current roster is capable of winning games against playoff-caliber teams, they just need more time to build chemistry and live-action.

With the way second-year stud RJ Barrett is developing, it seems as if the Knicks will be in good shape moving forward, considering they still have All-Star Julius Randle and Derrick Rose preparing to make a return in the coming days.

One FA gem has proven to be huge for the Knicks:

One low-key gem the Knicks signed in free agency is turning out to be one of their more integral pieces, and his name is Alec Burks. At 29 years old, Burks has been a productive player this season, averaging 13 points over 26 minutes per game. Against the Wizards on Thursday evening, Burks scored 27 points off the bench, going 8-for-18 from the field and hitting 9-of-11 free throws.

It seems as if Alec just does it all, ranging from his aggressive defense to scoring in big moments. His fourth-quarter clutchless has been undervalued all season, but the Knicks are finally beginning to realize he must be on the floor when they need point production. As an adequate shooter, Burks isn’t afraid to launch shots from anywhere on the court, and he’s deceivingly smart with his court vision and dealing the ball with his teammates. His ability to get into space is something that the Knicks have enjoyed lately, and head coach Tom Thibodeau values.

“He just does it all. There’s not any one particular thing. But he’s real good in a lot of different areas,” Thibodeau said of Burks after Thursday’s game. “He can run the team, he can play the point, play off the ball, put it on the floor, can shoot the three, can finish over size.

It’s not only Thibodeau who notices Burks’ value to the team, it’s his teammates as well, who feel comfortable putting the ball in his hands when it matters most.

“AB has been doing it all season,” said RJ Barrett. “That’s what he does. I’ve seen him every day, he’s working hard. Actually, we work out together almost every day. Just really happy to see him doing what he’s doing.

“He’s stepping up big-time for us. We need him and [I’m] very happy we have a guy like that on our team.”

While the Knicks are a young team, they rely on their veterans to carry the load in specific situations. Burks has proved to be a phenomenal free-agent signing this year, and if I were Thibodeau, I would want him around in 2022 as well.

Thibodeau, Randle mad after late costly call sinks Knicks

New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau kept it short while Julius Randle spewed fire after their heartbreaking 101-100 overtime loss Sunday night at The Garden to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“They said we didn’t challenge. Two officials. Tough calls. That’s all I’m going to say about it,” Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau was visibly furious after he was denied to challenge the loose ball foul called on Julius Randle that led to Tobias Harris’ game-winning free throws with 5.3 seconds left in the overtime.

Harris redeemed himself from missing two crucial free throws late in the regulation.

The Knicks still had a chance to win, but Randle’s tough jumper rimmed out at the buzzer.

Randle immediately vented his ire on the officials — only two of them as the third referee Dannica Mosher was a late scratch due to health and safety protocols.

“Blown call by the officials. Not enough contact for them to call the play. Nerlens (Noel), clearly he had possession. After all the fouling and everything that was going on for them to call that and decide the game is f—ing ridiculous. It’s ridiculous! They’ve got to do a better job. There are too many games like this,” Randle said in an explosive postgame interview.

The replays, though, showed Randle slightly shoved Harris with his hands caught clinging to the jersey.

It was the Knicks’ second straight tough defeat against the 76ers this week. Harris, a Long Island native, was also the Knicks’ tormentor in their 99-96 loss earlier this week in Philadelphia.

Randle’s costly foul failed to preserve his heroics in the regulation. The Knicks’ All-Star buried a corner three with 6.4 seconds left to force the overtime.

Alec Burks, who flubbed a fastbreak layup in the fourth quarter, engaged Danny Green in a wild shootout in the extra period.

The Knicks appeared to be in control when they opened a four-point lead, 100-96, on Reggie Bullock’s three with 70 seconds left.

But Harris bailed Philadelphia (30-13) out of trouble, scoring his team’s last five points. The narrow win kept the 76ers in the solo top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Mitchell Robinson returned after missing the Knicks’ last 15 games with a fractured hand. He appeared to be fine, collecting four points—including a putback slam— and six rebounds until he rolled his ankle in the second half. The Knicks’ young center played 17 minutes off the bench.

Immanuel Quickley also came back after a one-game absence and started anew with Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols) and Elfrid Payton (hamstring) still out. But Quickley was rusty as he missed his first five shots and the Knicks trailed by double digits early on.

Philadelphia built its largest lead, 43-29, in the second quarter. Then Quickley came alive. The rookie guard nailed two triples in a 13-0 New York run to end the first half only down by one, 43-42.

Burks scored 20 points off the bench, tallying 16 of them in the fourth quarter and overtime. RJ Barrett had 19 and eight boards while Nerlens Noel also stepped up for the Knicks with a season-high 13 points and 10 rebounds.

But all their efforts went down the drain.

The Knicks slipped to 21-22 and will host the lowly Washington Wizards (15-26), losers of eight of their last 10 games, on Tuesday and Thursday at home.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

From Zero to Hero: Bullock’s steal saves Knicks from Magic’s spell

In a game they desperately needed to win, the New York Knicks found a way to pull through in the end.

Reggie Bullock turned from zero to hero, while Julius Randle took on the playmaking mantle.

The undermanned Knicks survived the Orlando Magic’s scare, 94-93, Thursday night in front of a delirious 2,000 crowd at The Garden.

For the second straight game, the Knicks lost a lead in the fourth quarter, and for the third consecutive game, it came down to the last possession. But this time, they did not cave in to pressure.

An Evan Fournier three-pointer off a Bullock turnover set up the dramatic finish.

Fournier won the tip after forcing Bullock to a jump ball with 22.4 seconds left. Coming from a Magic timeout, Bullock redeemed himself with a steal off Fournier in the final 5.9 seconds to seal the win.

“My mindset is that I just turned it over,” Bullock said after his teammates mobbed him. “I knew I had to step up on the defensive end and get a stop.”

Bullock also stepped up on the offensive end, firing 20 points with six triples to carry the Knicks’ bench as he swapped roles with Alec Burks, who also thrived as a starter.

Thibodeau was forced to make the switch as the Knicks played without their top three point guards—Elfrid Payton (hamstring), Derrick Rose (healthy and safety protocols), and Immanuel Quickley (ankle)—and with Frank Ntilikina struggling since the All-Star break.

Burks scored 21 and added 10 assists, but it was Randle who stepped up big time, dishing out a career-high 17 assists, the most by a non-guard in Knicks history.

Randle also completed his third triple-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the first Knicks player to have three or more triple-doubles in a season since Michael Ray Robinson had seven in 1981-82.

Ntilikina broke out of his slump and pumped in 13 points, mainly from Randle’s setup. The embattled French guard hit two three-pointers in rhythm in the second half to get it rolling before soaring for an And-1 play over Magic center Nikola Vucevic for his night’s highlight. He also hit a corner clutch three that put the Knicks on top, 88-87, with 3:49 left.

RJ Barrett also continued his solid play with 17 points and nine rebounds.

“We just said we need to win the game by any means necessary, and that’s what we did. Guys stepped up, and I’m proud of our team,” Randle said.

It was a character-building win for the Knicks, who almost squandered a 16-point lead in the second half.

After Randle’s three-pointer put them comfortably on top, 72-56, the Magic responded with a 10-0 run to end the third quarter only down by six.

Orlando continued to cast its magic spell and dropped a 9-2 run to take a 75-74 lead. The Magic held a five-point lead twice in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks kept on scratching and clawing back before snatching the much-needed win that moved them back to .500.

The Knicks (21-21) have now matched their total wins last season and move two victories away from breaking the Las Vegas preseason odds (22.5 wins) with still 30 games left.

“Look, I don’t care how we do it. I just want to win. But I thought, you know, just find a way to win,” Tom Thibodeau said.

And the Knicks did.

Their collective spirit pulled them out of the rabbit hole. Their chemistry made all the parts play as a whole.

It was a delight to see them celebrate with such joy. But things can change in an instant if the trade deadline brings a new fancy toy.

”This is the time of the year every team is talking to every team. ‘If [management] feels it can help our team, I’m sure they’ll take a hard look at it,” Thibodeau said before the game.

But he was quick to add: “I love the guys that we have, so that’s all I focus on. Whoever’s here, that’s what we’re working with. And if something’s good for us and they make a move, that’s great, too.”

Watching their special bond play out this night makes you think the front office will ride it out with this group.

But who knows?

We’ll know more what these Knicks are really made of when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers in a grudge rematch on Sunday night.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Anti-climactic ending in Atlantic: Knicks’ comeback falls short in Nets’ nest

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

It was an enthralling match with the trappings of a high-stakes playoff game where the stranglehold of a basketball city so desperate to get back to NBA relevance hung in the balance.

It was the old power New York Knicks against the new order Brooklyn Nets in Atlantic Avenue.

In the end, a controversial call failed to give it a fitting finish as the Nets escaped with a 117-112 win on Monday night.

Perhaps this would be the start of a heated rivalry between the two resurgent New York teams.

Kyrie Irving saved the Nets from a complete meltdown with a swipe to Julius Randle’s three-point attempt to send the game into overtime. Randle went down with the ball and dribbled that earned him a traveling call.

It was an anti-climatic finish to a riveting game that had its ebb and flow.

The Nets came into the game the heavy favorites even without arguably their best player, Kevin Durant. They still had two of the best guards in the league in Irving and James Harden.

The Knicks tried to counter the Nets’ firepower by inserting the streak shooting rookie Immanuel Quickley into the starting lineup. For a while, it worked as the Knicks, behind Reggie Bullock’s red-hot shooting, led by seven early on, 18-11.

But it was just a matter of time before the Nets’ overwhelming talent took over the game. They extended a five-point lead to 17, 49-32, on a back-breaking 14-2 run at the onset of the second quarter. The Knicks’ second-unit offense suffered without Quickley. Frank Ntilikina continued to struggle, coming up empty in five attempts.

Brooklyn was led by as many as 18 and appeared cruising to an easy win, an encore of its 116-109 win at The Garden on the day the Nets completed the blockbuster Harden trade.

Harden had his first taste of the New York rivalry and quickly stamped his signature. He finished with his 10th triple-double (21 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists) of the season and became the first Nets player to register a triple-double with at least 15 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists.

“The New York fans, especially the Knicks fans, you can hear them. I don’t know how many fans we have in the building in total, but you heard a lot of Knicks fans. We understand the tradition, but I’m just happy to be part of the rivalry,” Harden said.

He would hear more of them once the arenas would welcome back fans at full capacity. But despite having only 1,600 people allowed for the game, the Knicks fans led by celebrity Spike Lee engulfed the Barclays Center, especially during the fourth quarter.

But they were silent for much part of the game when the Nets’ offense was humming.

Irving, who Blake Griffin described in his pre-game interview as a “creative scorer,” scored in a variety of ways — pull-up jumper, crossover, and stepback jumper, nasty drives, three-pointers with hand on his face.

The Knicks tried but could not contain Irving, the New Jersey native and a self-confessed Nets fan growing up. He led the Nets with 34 points on efficient 13-of-18 shooting.

The Knicks, though, did not back down from the challenge. They showed plenty of fight, and their grittiness enabled them to storm back from an 18-point third-quarter deficit and came within a three-point basket from forcing overtime.

Quickley, the rookie sensation out of Kentucky, did not disappoint in his first NBA career start. He had 21 points but fell silent in the fourth quarter.

It didn’t matter as Randle found his rhythm late, pouring in 12 points in the Knicks’ late fightback. He was furious after the traveling call and had to be restrained by his teammates, the Knicks coaching staff, and even William Wesley, the team’s executive vice president.

Randle tried to match Irving and Harden’s star power during crunch time, but his effort went down the drain with that call. Randle collected 33 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.

Barrett ended up with 23 points, six rebounds, and four assists after a rough start to the game. Bullock and Alec Burks had 19 and 12, respectively, combining for seven of the Knicks’ 15 triples.

After surviving the Knicks’ blistering start, the Nets’ supercharged offense overwhelmed the Knicks’ defense. Brooklyn shot 70 percent in the first quarter to take a 35-30 lead after being down by seven. The Nets ended up with 58 percent, still far from Tom Thibodeau’s liking.

If the Nets were silky-smooth on offense, the Knicks lived to fight with their grittiness that earned them 27 trips at the line. They hit 24 free throws that helped them hang with the Nets.

Their defense was air-tight in the closing moments, forcing two jump balls in the final 10.8 seconds of the game.

All the Knicks wanted was a shot at winning the game. They had their chances but couldn’t capitalize. And in the end, the breaks of the game didn’t go Manhattan’s way.

On the flip side, for all the talks that the Nets are just all offense, they leaned on defense to pull out this win. Irving, despite the controversial call, took care of business and made a game-winning defensive stop.

Crew chief Scott Foster explained after the game that it was the correct call.

“The defender (Irving) was deemed to touch the ball but not cause it to be dislodged or loose. Upon that, when the player (Randle) alights, he cannot purposely drop the ball or dribble the ball or be first to touch after he dropped the ball,” Foster said.

The Brooklyn franchise collected stars to establish a new order and try to end a New York tradition.

But not so fast.

The Knicks won’t give up their grip on the city without a fight. Monday night’s game was a testament.

The close call was the Nets’ 100th win over the Knicks, who hold a slim one-win edge in their all-time head-to-head matchups. The Nets could tie it with a regular season-sweep on April 5.

Brooklyn has a firm grip of the second spot in the East with a 27-13 record, half a game behind Philadelphia, after extending their winning streak to five.

The Knicks slipped to 20-2, still good for seventh place in the East.

A Knicks-Nets playoff matchup should be a perfect treat for New York fans.

But for that to happen, the Knicks should continue to defy the odds.

They will try to close out the tough four-game road trip to start the second half with a victory in Philadephia against the Sixers, the current best team in the East.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

2 underrated Knicks who are making a significant impact

New York Knicks, Alec Burks

The New York Knicks are coming off an impressive win over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday evening just ahead of the All-Star break. The Knicks will have a week to rest up and heal their bodies before facing off against a strong Milwaukee Bucks squad. The team is one game over .500, climbing back from being down five games at one point, showing resiliency and compounding growth.

However, every player has played an integral part in their recent success, and there are two specific pieces that have made an impact in their own way.

Two New York Knicks who are being undervalued with latest success:

1.) Nerlens Noel

With Starting center Mitchell Robinson missing several weeks with a fractured hand, reserve option Nerlens Noel has risen to the occasion. At 26 years old, Noel has been a menace on the boards, averaging 2.1 offensive rebounds and 6.1 total rebounds, the highest since his 2015 season. He’s averaging the most blocks in his entire career at 2.0 per game, scoring 4.9 points over 22.2 minutes.

In the win over Detroit, he logged 12 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, and two blocks. He’s been absolutely phenomenal on defense, helping New York dominate the boards and offer secondary opportunities to their shooters.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau prefers defensive-minded players, and Noel has provided that spark and then some. He has supplemented the loss of Robinson extremely well, and I would be surprised if he didn’t earn more minutes even after the youngster returns.

2.) Alec Burks

One of the more underrated players for the Knicks has been Alec Burks, who always seems to rise to the occasion when a three-pointer is needed in the fourth quarter. Several days ago, Burks scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks to a victory, showing off his ability to get hot from the field. While he remains a reserve option, he has solid court vision and seems comfortable with the ball in his hands. He’s averaging 11.1 points over 24.7 minutes this year while also helping with 2.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds.

Burks seems to be a fantastic rotational piece that can provide offensive prowess when called upon. With the Knicks playing aggressive defense, it is always good to have a shooter who can score points quickly and give some of the starters a rest. At 29 years old, he’s a valuable veteran that adds to the team.

Royal Beating: Knicks pounce on Kings, move up to 5th spot

Derrick Rose bloomed again as a starter. Immanuel Quickley regained his swagger. Alec Burks was a killer in the fourth quarter.

The backcourt trio took turns in presiding over the New York Knicks‘ royal beating of the Sacramento Kings, 140-121, on Thursday night in front of a limited but loud and animated home crowd.

The 2,000 fans who showed up had so much fun as the Knicks threw a party that rocked The Garden.

They serenaded Julius Randle and Quickley with M-V-P chants and went nuts when Frank Ntilikina, who hadn’t played since Dec. 29 last year, was finally unleashed from the doghouse.

Ntilikina was solid off the bench, collecting seven points, two assists, and three steals, and was tied for the second-highest net rating among the Knicks with +17.

But it was Rose who opened up the party with fireworks.

Rose replaced Elfrid Payton, who was out with a hamstring injury, in the starting lineup and instantly boosted the league’s worst offense. The former MVP hit his first seven shots en route to his most impressive outing — 18 points and six assists — since the trade.

With Rose’s promotion, Quickley was handed down the keys to the second unit offense, and the rookie guard snapped out of his slump.

After a dreadful three-game stretch where he shot 3-for-22 overall, Quickley scored 18 points in just 10 minutes in the opening half as the Knicks opened up a 77-62 lead.

The Kings, however, refused to hand the win on a silver platter and came within seven in the fourth quarter. That’s when Burks caught fire as the veteran guard scored 19 of his 24 points.

Burks and Quickley combined for 49 points off the bench, outscoring the entire Kings’ second unit, who put up 33.

Six players scored in double figures for the Knicks, led by Quickley’s 25 points.

“That’s the great part about this team,” Quickley said. “Whoever’s night it is, we roll with them. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed each other’s success. That’s what makes this journey so special. This team is so special.”

On nights like this, they indeed look special on the court.

Quickley had his third 25-point game on just 10 shots. It was his fourth game with at least 25 points leading all rookies. He went perfect from the line (12-12) and added three assists and two steals.

Randle, the newly-minted NBA All-Star, took the backseat but still came away with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists. He shot 50 percent from the field.

The Knicks, who entered the game averaging a league-worst 103.6 points, already had 101 against the league’s worst defense by the end of the third quarter. They dropped their highest scoring total in almost two years on season-highs 58.6 percent shooting and 19-of-36 three-pointers.

“Offensively, when we share the ball and make the right plays, I’m very confident in our shooting ability,” Tom Thibodeau said.

De’Aaron Fox led the Kings, who slumped to their ninth straight loss, with 29 points and 11 assists.

The Knicks moved up to the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Toronto Raptors with a 16-17 record. They have another chance to reach .500 when they take on the Indiana Pacers on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. at The Garden.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Elfrid Payton sparks Knicks’ shock upset of Bucks

New York Knicks, Elfrid Payton

A late Christmas present from Santa Claus to New York Knicks fans came with a big help from The Elf.

Elfrid Payton silenced his critics on Sunday night as he wrapped the Knicks’ first win of the season — a 130-110 demolition of the Eastern Conference favorite Milwaukee Bucks — with a strong bounce-back performance.

Point taken

After the Knicks’ fans clamored for his benching following a scoreless outing against the Philadelphia 76ers, Payton responded with his best game as a Knick. The much-maligned point guard scored a season-high 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 trip from downtown. He laced it up with three rebounds and seven assists.

The Knicks have missed out or deliberately shunned the Chris Pauls, Fred Van Vleets, and Russell Westbrooks, depending on which version of reports you would like to believe. But on Sunday night, the Knicks collectively showed their immense potential under new head coach Tom Thibodeau if they have a lead guard producing All-Star numbers.

With Payton directing the offense like an All-Star, the Knicks were sharp Sunday night, hitting 46 out of 85 field goals (54.1%) on 27 assists.

“We shared the ball. The ball was moving. The guys were getting rhythm shots, and I think that’s why we made a good bit of them tonight,” Payton said postgame.

Extra shooting

Several Knicks players were on rhythm in this game.

Julius Randle tied Payton’s output with his own 29-point effort that came with 14 rebounds and seven assists. Alec Burks continued his solid play off the bench with 18 points, including four triples and five assists.

RJ Barrett also bounced back from a sub-par game against Philadelphia with 17 points, eight boards, and four assists. Even Frank Ntilikina came out smoking in the garbage time, hitting all four three-point attempts and finished with 12 points.

The Knicks connected on 16-of-27 from downtown for a whopping 59.3 percent.

The extra shooting session led by Payton following their blowout loss to the Sixers last night definitely helped.

Knicks’ defensive wall

The Knicks’ defense was as sharp as their offense. Despite Giannis Antetokoumpo getting away with 27 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists, the Knicks closed out on their shooters. They limited the usually sharp Bucks to a measly 7-for-38 (18.4%) three-point shooting.

Only Antetokounmpo and ex-Knick Bobby Portis shot over 50 percent from the field for the Bucks.

Portis came off the bench to score 17 points, while Khris Middleton added 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting performance. The Bucks’ new addition Jrue Holiday was a disappointment with just eight points on 4-of-10 field goals.

What’s next?

The Knicks will embark on a four-game road trip beginning at Cleveland on Tuesday.

Dennis Smith Jr. joined the injury list with a quad injury. Rookies Immanuel Quickley (hip pointer) and Obi Toppin (calf strain) missed their second consecutive game. Meanwhile, Austin Rivers (pulled groin), who has yet to see action this season, has been cleared to take contact in practice, Thibodeau revealed in his postgame interview.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo