Walker's triple-double propels Knicks to Christmas NBA win

Los Angeles (AFP) – Kemba Walker's resurgence continued Saturday as he became the first New York Knick to post a triple-double on Christmas Day to lead the way in a 101-87 NBA victory over the Atlanta Hawks.


Walker, benched for nine games by coach Tom Thibodeau this month, has poured it on in his return to the lineup.

On Thursday, he had 44 in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, but on Saturday his 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists made an impact in the opening game of the NBA's five-game Christmas Day slate.

"Back home!" a beaming Walker said of the standing ovation he received when he pulled down his 10th rebound in the second half to achieve his first triple-double since 2014. "I'm from here, born and raised and they showed me a lot of love today.

Julius Randle scored 25 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who led by as many as 21 points in the wire-to-wire victory.

Walker became the seventh NBA player to record a triple-double on Christmas. The great Oscar Robertson did it four times in the 1960s, and the most recent to do so was Golden State's Draymond Green in 2017.

"I just wanted to come out here and get a win," Walker said.

John Collins and Delon Wright scored 20 points apiece for the Hawks, who had eight players sidelined over Covid-19 concerns including star Trae Young.

The Hawks were among many teams grappling as the Covid Omicron variant spreads across the United States.

The Boston Celtics had nine players sidelined because of coronavirus heading into their game against the NBA champion Bucks in Milwaukee.

That included German guard Dennis Schroder, the team's third-leading scorer behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who was placed in health and safety protocols on Saturday morning.

The Bucks got good news, however, with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo cleared to return after missing five games over Covid.

Other games scheduled included the Golden State Warriors at the Phoenix Suns in a clash of the top two teams in the league overall.

It's just the sixth time the teams with the NBA's best records have met on Christmas.

The two Western Conference pacesetters have already met twice in less than a month, the Suns winning in Phoenix before Golden State broke the Suns' 18-game winning streak with a victory in San Francisco.

The Suns are aiming to stretch their narrow lead in the conference and extend their 15-game home winning streak.

"This is our game to settle it," Phoenix's Deandre Ayton said. "It's going to be a great one."

Later Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers host a Brooklyn Nets team whose seven Covid absentees include Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge. And in the nightcap, the Utah Jazz hosted the Dallas Mavericks.