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    Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle power Knicks to blowout win over Bucks, 130-110, for first win of season

    Following his brutal game Saturday night, Elfrid Payton summoned a rebounder, returned to the MSG court, and began shooting.

    It started with a one-handed shot from under the hoop. It graduated to the foul line, then the 3-point line. At 11 p.m., or 90 minutes after the final buzzer of a defeat to the Sixers, Payton was still on the court, trying to shoot away the woes of his 0-for-6 performance.


    Less than 24 hours later, Payton was a point-guard transformed, the catalyst of a 130-110 upset victory over the Bucks. He started fast and finished strong, collecting 27 points to match Giannis Antetokounmpo’s total while quieting the fans who were calling for Payton’s benching.

    “That’s one of the best things about basketball — you don’t have to wait a week if you have a tough game or whatever,” Payton said. “There’s usually one coming right after.”

    Elfrid Payton
    Elfrid Payton (Mike Strobe/AP)

    The blowout victory was a shocking result for the Knicks (1-2), who were 12-point underdogs at home against arguably the Eastern Conference’s best team and best player. Antetokounmpo, making his first Garden appearance since signing the most lucrative deal in NBA history, wasn’t exactly locked down while dropping 27 points with 13 boards in 32 minutes. But he was neutralized enough for the Knicks to maintain a double-digit lead for the entire second half, answering all the Bucks’ mini runs with timely treys.

    “A lot of these looks, you got to give them credit: they knocked down a lot of them,” said Antetokounmpo. “But we have to make it a lot more tougher for them. A lot of easy looks.”

    Milwaukee’s final opportunity occurred toward the end of the third quarter, when the deficit was reduced to 12. Payton then responded with a 3-pointer and seven straight Knicks points. The Bucks never recovered. Coach Mike Budenholzer emptied the bench and threw in the towel with seven minutes left. It was that type of night.

    “It’s pretty early (in the season),” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer explained of his bench-clearing substitutions. “We have a big week ahead of us. We’ve had kind of a big week behind us. Christmas Day (game) and travel and all those things. So you just try to balance it out.”

    Still, Antetokounmpo denied the Bucks overlooked New York.

    Julius Randle
    Julius Randle (Mike Stobe/AP)

    “We don’t do that. We don’t do that as a team,” he said. “We take every team seriously.”

    Payton’s effort was matched by teammate Julius Randle, who dropped 29 points with 14 rebounds and seven assists. The Knicks were incredibly efficient overall, shooting 55 percent and 16-for-27 from beyond the arc.

    RJ Barrett also recovered nicely from a poor performance a night earlier, although not to the level of Payton. Barrett went from shooting 2-for-15 against the Sixers to 7-for-17 against the Bucks. Even Frank Ntilikina scored 12 points off the bench.

    Defensively, the Knicks were also clicking.

    The game plan against Antetokounmpo was to build a defensive wall near the top of the key when he had the ball, preventing his familiar explosive drives to the basket. It was an effective strategy against the two-time reigning MVP, who took just six shots in the first half.

    The “Greek Freak” came alive in the second half but it was too late. The Knicks were on their way to a shocker.

    “We’re not going to get carried away with one win,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think you can’t lose sight of the work part of it. We always say that the magic is in the work, and it really is.”

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