THE MILWAUKEE Bucks soundly beat the more celebrated New York Knicks last night in the NBA's latest glitzy visit to the O2 -– another step towards a permanent franchise affiliated to the American basketball league in the capital.
Shooting guard OJ Mayo’s 22 points helped the Bucks beat the out-of-form Knicks, who boast the NBA’s second and fourth highest-paid stars in Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, 95-79 in a one-sided contest.
The Bucks, who lie fifth in the Eastern Conference, raced into a 14-0 lead and held a 26-point advantage at one stage. The bottom-of-the-table Knicks, for whom seven-time All-Star Anthony scored 25 points, reduced the gap to 11 with less than five minutes left but a clinical three-pointer from Mayo effectively ended their hopes of an unlikely comeback.
Earlier NBA commissioner Adam Silver reiterated that it was the organisation’s “manifest destiny” to expand beyond its native United States and establish a four-team European division.
London is one of the likely locations for a franchise, though Silver echoed comments from Ben Morel, the NBA’s head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa in yesterday’s City A.M., who said fans would have to be patient in waiting for the step.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “I know that as much growth as we’ve seen, we have a long way to go before we can sustain four franchises in Europe. On the other hand, I believe it’s our manifest destiny to expand.”
Last night’s contest -– attended by celebrities such as actor Idris Elba, footballers Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba, and pop stars Little Mix -– was the fifth regular-season NBA match to be staged at the O2 and sold out faster than all of its predecessors.