MILWAUKEE — Knicks coach David Fizdale rolled with young center Luke Kornet, placing him in the starting lineup over Enes Kanter for Thursday’s game against the Bucks.
It didn’t result in a victory, but Fizdale liked the move even better afterward. Kornet notched a career-high-tying 23 points, making 7-of-11 3-pointers as the Knicks got off to an early lead.
“That’s what I was hoping for, a guy that was going to space the floor for us,’’ Fizdale said following the 112-96 loss. “He opened up the floor for us to be able to attack the paint.’’
The Knicks haven’t won since beating Charlotte on Dec. 14 when Kornet was a key cog. That triggered Thursday’s move to see if he could help get the team out of its malaise. It could turn into a permanent promotion if Kornet produces like he did Thursday. Fizdale said he wants to give Kevin Knox and Emmanuel Mudiay the opportunity play with more space on the floor.
Kornet posted his career night in the city where his father, Frank, played as a Bucks forward.
“It’s definitely special — I’m sure my parents are proud,’’ Kornet said. “[Starting] was quite a bit different. I got used to it and tried to get into a rhythm in the beginning.’’
The coaching staff believes Kornet, 23, can act as a better rim protector and defender than Kanter, too. Kanter, who bristled last time he got yanked from the lineup for Mitchell Robinson, said he would address the issue after the game but instead got caught up in another controversy after his altercation with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Kornet revealed he has been playing with a broken nose, wearing a mask the past week after knocking into Sixers center Joel Embiid on Dec. 19. Kornet also has a black eye from the break. The Knicks announced last week Kornet’s nose was not broken.
“I’m just trying to come out and make the most of it, create some offense and be solid on defense,’’ Kornet said before the game. “I’m taking the opportunity for what it is and make the best of it.”
Fizdale’s move is a risk as it could alienate Kanter, who is a free agent after the season and his situation at the trade deadline bears watching.
Fizdale said Kornet’s addition wasn’t about matching up with Brook Lopez, who has taken to shooting 3-pointers.
“I just thought going on the road, good time to look at a change and want to see how Mudiay, Kevin and even Noah [Vonleh] operate in space,’’ Fizdale said. “And I went back to our last win. That’s what coaches do during a tough stretch. Luke was instrumental. Maybe we can duplicate it.’’
Kornet made just one start last season as a rookie when he was on a two-way contract.
“I’m trying to make the most of what I have and establish myself and gain confidence and do what I can to show coach I can keep it,’’ said Kornet, who played in 10 G-League games earlier this season. “I’m hoping to help us win in this role.’’