A game between the struggling New York Knicks and Washington Wizards would barely have registered back in the US, but transported across the Atlantic, it stole the London sporting spotlight on Thursday.
With none of the capital’s seven Premier League clubs in action, a sold-out 19,000 crowd crammed into the 02 Arena to witness the NBA’s ninth regular-season international game to be held in London.
The NBA’s biggest names were not in town, but still the crowd was treated to a nail-biter as the Knicks, who have won only 10 games all season, suffered an agonizing 101-100 loss, their fifth straight defeat.
Wizards All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beale ended with a game-high 26 points as his team clawed back an 89-77 deficit going into the fourth quarter.
The Knicks hit the wall in the last quarter, but when Emmanuel Mudiay sank a majestic three-pointer, it looked as though David Fizdale’s team would be able to catch their early-morning flight with a morale-boosting win.
However, a shot-clock violation gave the Wizards the ball back with three seconds left and on the restart Thomas Bryant’s attempt at laying the ball in from Beale’s assist was blocked by Knicks’ Allonzo Trier, who wildly celebrated what he thought was a game-winning deflection.
After a video review, Trier was called for goal-tending and the Knicks’ hearts sank.
The Wizards’ Otto Porter Jr said it was a satisfying feeling to get the win after getting off to a poor start.
“We came out here with a must-win on our mind and we didn’t start the way we wanted to, but we finished it,” he said, as the Wizards picked up a sixth win in nine games to boost their playoff hopes.
London has become a hub for US sports leagues branching out into a hungry European market.
The NFL is to play four regular games there this year, having staged three sold-out Wembley fixtures last year. In June the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are to play the first regular-season MLB game in Europe at the London Stadium.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that playing NBA games in London’s O2 was just like being at home, but added that the league is looking seriously at Paris.
“I’m told I’m not allowed to break news today, but yes, it is possible,” he said. “It is something we are looking very closely at, and that is playing a regular-season game in Paris for next season.”
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