The New York Knicks slipped to their 16th straight defeat as they were roundly beaten from start to finish by the Milwaukee Bucks in front of a subdued London crowd.
The Knicks, who now have a truly horrible 5-36 record this season, were the bigger draw for this one, but left their scores of fans disappointed after a 95-79 defeat in which the Bucks were never behind.
The only bright spot for New Yorkers was the return of Carmelo Anthony from injury, the star scored 25 points in 28 minutes but got little help from his team-mates, with Jose Calderon and Tim Hardaway Jr the only other players to reach double figures.
For the Bucks it was a true team effort, five players reaching double figures, but it was the play of Giannis Antetokounmpo who drew the most gasps, the gangly 'Greek Freak' throwing down a couple of dunks. OJ Mayo top scored with 22 points, the guard also found the net from four of his six three-point shots.
NBA London 2015
NBA London 2015
1/7 Thierry Henry
The Arsenal legend, sat next to Cesc Fabregas, is taunted by Bucks mascot Bango
2/7 Millie Mackintosh
The Made in Chelsea star watches with friends
3/7 Jack Wilshere
The Arsenal midfielder watches with a friend
4/7 Tim Westwood, Jason Puncheon
The DJ sits next to the Crystal Palace winger
5/7 Anthony Joshua
Joshua, who won gold at London 2012 and is on his way to the top of the heavyweight division
6/7 Liam Payne
One Direction star Liam Payne
7/7 Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba
The two stars continue to chat with Bango
In truth the game had little flow or excitement, with play often stopped as both teams racked up shooting fouls - hardly the greatest advert for the expansion of the game in the UK.
Speaking after the game, Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, who has now won in London three years in a row with three different teams, said: "I love the international atmosphere. As a player and a coach I’ve had some success and been very fortunate. Coming international I’ve always enjoyed being able to showcase my talent as a player and also watching the greatest players play basketball."
The Bucks dominated from the very first whistle, starting with 14 unanswered points as each missed Knicks shot was met by ever-increasing groans. By the time the first shot went in, almost four minutes into the game, The 02 was filled with ironic cheers.
No matter what five players Knicks coach Derek Fisher put on the floor, they were always one step behind the Bucks, who continued to extend their lead. So bad were the Knicks defensively that they resorted to fouls on almost every Milwaukee shot; the Bucks shot a massive 28 first-half free-throws to pull away further. Free-throw shooting is hardly the most eye-pleasing offensive move in basketball and the disruption to the game's flow sucked the atmosphere out of the almost 20,000 people inside the arena.
"It was a combination of things," said Fisher after the defeat. "There was some lack of effort by some guys but we had two guys out there who haven’t played in two weeks and the pace of the game is too fast. We have played this team four times including pre-season and they’re just better than us.
"It’s not good enough and we have to get better. We have to work harder than what we are and put more time and effort in to get the results that we want."
Anthony was the only Knicks player who could be pleased with his performance in the first half as he racked up 17 of his team's 37 points. After the break it hardly got better for the boys from the Big Apple - that 19-point deficit grew to 26 and fans started to head for the exits with 12 minutes still on the clock.
A host of stars sat at courtside, including footballers Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas, actor Idris Elba and heavyweight prospect Anthony Joshua, and by the end of the 48 minutes they were getting bigger cheers when the cameras cut to them during breaks in play.
However, those who left early missed a late, if ultimately doomed comeback. The Bucks could barely make a shot in the fourth quarter, scoring just five points in the first eight minutes to set up a tense finish. New York, with both Anthony and Stoudemire resting, continued to make shots and with just four minutes remaining had cut the lead to 12, waking the crowd in the process. Every missed Milwaukee shot was met with a cheer, and we finally had a real game.
But as quickly as that momentum arrived it was gone again as the Knicks stopped hitting shots and began turning the ball over. Milwaukee were never really in danger of letting their lead slip and finished the stronger of the two teams.Reuse content