Elfrid Payton rallies Knicks for season’s first winning streak
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On the one-week anniversary of David Fizdale’s firing, the Knicks put together their first two-game winning streak of the season after rallying from a 16-point third-quarter deficit.
Backup point guard Elfrid Payton led the comeback with a flurry of big baskets, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the second half as the Knicks upset the Kings, 103-101, at Golden 1 Center on Friday.
After breaking their 10-game losing streak on Wednesday, interim head coach Mike Miller’s Knicks have notched California wins over Golden State and Sacramento, withstanding the giant night from sharpshooter Buddy Hield (34 points)
Miller is now 2-2 since taking over for Fizdale, and his Knicks have shown fourth-quarter resiliency.
Julius Randle led the Knicks with 26 points on 10-for-17 shooting, including a long 2-point field goal that increased their lead to 99-95 with 1:40 left. The Knicks (6-20) outscored the Kings 31-21 in the fourth period.
Foul-plagued Marcus Morris scored on a conventional three-point play to tie the score at 93 with 5:22 to go. Then Morris scored a game-sealing put-back with 9.1 seconds left. That gave the Knicks a five-point lead and set off a giddy on-court celebration. Morris was the hero against the Warriors on Wednesday, scoring 36 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the overtime victory.
Payton gave the Knicks their first second-half lead with 4:30 left on a runner in the lane and they held off the Kings (11-14), who had pounded them 113-92 at the Garden on Nov. 3, when Fizdale was still running the show.
The Kings had De’Aaron Fox then, but he has been out since Nov. 11 a severely sprained ankle.
Miller has trusted Payton to close tight games in the fourth quarter and he has been rewarded. Fizdale didn’t have Payton for 17 straight contests when he was out with an injured hamstring.
“The biggest thing is [Payton is] making other players better,’’ Miller said before the game. “He’s making the game easier. That’s what you look for. That’s the mark of a good player. He’s now getting back in his form. He’s feeling good, healthy, getting his game legs back.”
Hield dropped 22 points in the first half in a scorching performance, shooting 12 of 16 and 6 of 9 from 3-point range before cooling off in the second half.
At one point, showing his versatility, Hield zipped past Mitchell Robinson down the baseline for a reverse layup. Hield also crashed the boards for 12 rebounds — four on the offensive glass.
The Knicks were sluggish on offense in the half. They scored 20 points in the first quarter — going 0-for-6 from the 3-point line. RJ Barrett missed all three of his 3-pointers in the first half and was 0-for-5 for the game.
Randle kept the Knicks in it with 17 first-half points on 7 of 11 shooting while Morris scored just two points. The Knicks shot 40.8 percent overall in the half and looked lifeless in their halfcourt sets.
Before the game, Miller all but promised he would find a way to keep playing Denis Smith Jr., lauding the benefit of having three point guards. But Smith, who missed their win at Golden State because of a migraine, was held out again.
Before the game, Miller was asked about receiving the game ball after the win over the Warriors, when he notched his first NBA head-coaching victory.
“As excited as I was about it, I was much more excited for them because they deserved it,’’ Miller said. “I was very happy for them and appreciative to have that moment with them.”
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