How Enes Kanter stole Christmas from both Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid
The focus was on the two budding stars, but Enes Kanter stole the show on Christmas
Enes Kanter was supposed to be a background piece in the NBA Christmas Day opener starring Joel Embiid vs Kristaps Porzingis. He was just another role player on the Knicks who liked to talk trash. However, as the game went on, the duel became less about Porzingis vs Embiid and more about Kanter vs Embiid.
By the end of the third quarter it was a full on Kanter show. The Knicks big man wasn't only putting up huge points, on his way to 31, but every board seemed to find it's way into his hands. He finished with 22 rebounds and made Embiid work for absolutely everything.
Of course, that doesn't mean the main event players didn't have a great game themselves. Embiid had 25 points and 16 rebounds. One of the most entertaining parts of the game was watching him go at it with Kanter both in the post, on rebounds and in a word of wars. If Kanter ever let Embiid catch the ball in the paint, it was over. He was going to finish with a dunk, but in turn Kanter would go down the floor and post up for his own two points to answer back.
Then there was Porzingis. The Knicks star big man is New York's most important player this season and everybody, including Kanter, is far better with him on the floor as opposed to off of it. Those moments without him were noticeable, and it's a big part of why the 76es ended up winning, but by the end of the day his 20 points had been completely overshadowed.
How does a star big man like Porzingis get overshadowed on Christmas of all days? Well, when the big next to him is doing this sometimes it's easier to just take a backseat and let him cook.
Perhaps Kanter should have been more of a story going in. He's embraced New York, the team and the fans, and he brought a much-needed attitude to the Knicks. LeBron James following a close game against the Cavaliers. He's been one of New York's more important players all season long, and this moment on Christmas was a great chance for him to establish himself with the rest of the Knicks future.with
He certainly kept to the culture of the team after the game. Despite having such a great game he was more frustrated about the loss than anything else.
"It's always a good thing but, I mean, people are texting my phone and saying congrats and whatever, I'm probably not going to text most of them back because who cares if I get 50 points, 50 rebounds?" Kanter said, via ESPN. "The state, the whole New York State, they want to see the playoffs. ... If my numbers aren't gonna put us in the playoffs, it don't mean anything"
That has to be music to the ears of any Knicks fans tired of mediocrity and tired of losing. Playoffs are the goal over individual performances, and that happens to be where the Knicks are heading right now. They're in the thick of the the early-season playoff race, and they've hung around or above .500 all season. That's what a team with playoff hopes does.
Embiid and the Sixers, they have playoff hopes as well. So maybe this was a potential playoff matchup. It could end up turning into a full seven-game series later, depending on how the seeding shakes out. If that ended up being the case, then it will be a playoff series highlighted as Embiid vs Porzingis. The start of a unicorn rivalry that will last for years to come. That's how it should be.
However, it's going to be impossible to not at least mention Kanter next time. He's already stolen the show once in a big moment. It wouldn't be surprising to see him do it once again in a full on playoff series.
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