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Walker’s triple-double leads Knicks against Hawks, 101-87

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Walker’s triple-double leads Knicks against Hawks, 101-87

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Kemba Walker could not have imagined this Christmas.

Less than two weeks ago, his trainer didn’t even call his name.

On Saturday, fans in his hometown chanted it.

Walker became the seventh player in the NBA with a triple-double over Christmas, and the New York Knicks beat the exhausted Atlanta Hawks 101-87 for their first holiday win in a decade.

“It was amazing,” Walker said. “These are the moments that you dream of. It’s a little hard to put into words, to be honest.”

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

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

It was the first triple-double at Christmas since Golden State’s Draymond Green in 2017, continuing Walker’s strong stretch since moving from a nine-game stint out of the rotation to returning to the starting lineup. when the Knicks were shorthanded.

He said he couldn’t have predicted things would turn out so quickly.

“This is not how we imagined it,” he said. “I’m not complaining either.”

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

“As a teammate, as a brother, I’m happy for him that he can come out and be who he is,” said Randle. “I’m sure when he signed on to come here, that’s kind of what he envisioned, playing the type of basketball he’s playing right now.”

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

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

Young played in his first playoff series last spring against New York, ignoring profane taunts from Knicks fans and getting the final say when he greeted them near the end of Atlanta’s victory in Game 5.

But he couldn’t clear protocols in time for a coveted spot on the calendar, and shorthanded play caught up to the Hawks. Coach Nate McMillan said some players have even asked to be replaced, which he said would never happen.

“It wasn’t a lack of energy,” McMillan said. “I think our guys are tired. They recorded a lot of minutes.”

The Knicks took their first seven shots and took a 19-3 lead over Randle’s 3-pointers with 7:48 remaining in the first quarter.

They blew him up in the third quarter, and Grimes and Taj Gibson’s 3 straight points to open the fourth gave New York their biggest lead at 87-66. From there, the only drama was whether Walker would get another bounce.

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

Meanwhile, the Knicks are healthier. RJ Barrett returned to the starting lineup and Grimes made his first appearance since setting a Knicks rookie record with seven 3-pointers and 27 points against Milwaukee on December 12. He was then placed in protocols and missed the last five games.

ADVICE

Hawks: Guards Anthony “Cat” Barber and Malik Ellison, both playing this season for the College Park Skyhawks, the Atlanta branch of the NBA G League, have signed 10-day contracts. Ellison is the son of former No.1 draft pick Pervis Ellison.

Knicks: Hall of Fame member Bernard King, who set the Christmas record of 60 points with the Knicks in 1984, was in attendance. … The Knicks only have Nerlens Noel, Miles McBride and Jericho Sims in the protocols. Immanuel Quickley and Kevin Knox II have been made redundant but need to get back in shape before playing.

NOL TRIPLE-DOUBLE

Besides Walker and Green, other players with Christmas triple doubles are Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Oscar Robertson, Billy Cunningham and John Havlicek. Robertson has done it four times.

HISTORY OF HOLIDAY CREOLES

The Hawks fell to 9-12 over Christmas. They are 2-1 against the Knicks, with both wins coming when they were based in St. Louis.

FOLLOWING

Hawks: Host Chicago on Monday.

Knicks: Head to Minnesota on Tuesday to begin a four-game road trip.

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