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Thunder vs. Knicks: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Knicks: Pregame Primer



Thunder (33-13, 12-8 road) vs. Knicks (22-24, 13-9 home)

TV: NBATV/FSOklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 6:30 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.2 (2nd), Knicks – 102.1 (17th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 100.7 (9th), Knicks – 104.1 (18th)

Well, that was ugly. I don’t know what Winter Storm Jonas did to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that showing on Sunday was appalling. When looking at an opponent, I don’t focus on where they rate within the league (3rd best team vs. 3rd worst team). I look, instead, at the match-ups on the floor. And for Brooklyn, you had to know that Brook Lopez would be option A and B, and Thaddeus Young would likely be option C.

Everything went according to the scouting report, except for the fact that the Thunder did absolutely nothing to stop them. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen too much of Lopez throughout his career, but two things stuck out me: his size and his mobility. For a player that has suffered multiple foot injuries, Lopez still has the agility to drive past a defender and get to the rim. And Thad Young did his best Kenneth Faried impression, grabbing 7 offensive boards and 14 total.

This was a “will” game, and the Thunder just couldn’t will themselves enough to win in the end. To make matters worse, they lost their best perimeter defender (Andre Roberson) to a sprained knee that will likely sideline him until after the All-Star break.

So, no Roberson and likely, at best, a cautious Steven Adams, and at worst, no Steven Adams. This is starting to resemble the end of last season when Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Andre Roberson all missed time and the defense went to hell in a hand basket. The big difference is that the Thunder have Durant and Ibaka this season, and can likely outscore opponents. If those two will assert themselves defensively, the Thunder should be okay.

Series History

This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Knicks and Thunder. New York won the first meeting in Oklahoma City against the Durant-less Thunder 93-90. The Knicks controlled the game for most of the evening, but the Thunder made a run in the fourth that ultimately fell short.

The Opponent

The Knicks come into this game with a 22-24 record, having lost 4 of their last 6, and two games back of the 8th spot in the East. Derek Fisher has improved upon his rookie season and the Knicks seem to be less married to the triangle offense this season than they were last season. They are led by Carmelo Anthony, who is leading the team in scoring (21.3) and assists (4.0). Anthony is listed as questionable with soreness in his left knee. Rookie sensation Kristaps “Latvian Unicorn” Porzingis has surprised many this season to the tune of 14 points, nearly 8 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks a game. While Jahlil Okafor and Karl Anthony Towns may be putting up better numbers, Porzingis is putting up comparable numbers on a team competing for a playoff spot.

Arron Afflalo has been good for the Knicks this season, providing them with a secondary wing scorer they haven’t had since JR Smith was traded to the Cavs last season. Up front, the Thunder have to face the other Lopez twin, Robin. While Robin Lopez isn’t as offensively adept as his brother, he does provide the Knicks with rebounding and a tough interior presence. Off the bench, Lance Thomas, Derrick Williams, and Langston Galloway all have the ability to put up big games from time to time.

3 Big Things


While the Knicks aren’t a good rebounding team overall, they have the type of players that give the Thunder fits on the boards. Porzingis is too tall for Ibaka, Collison, or Durant to handle on the post and has shown an ability to fight through contact. Even if Adams plays, Porzingis plays in what I like to call the “uncomfort zone” for our big men. His ability to play on the perimeter completely neutralizes the strengths of the Thunder big men. Lopez and Williams are both high-energy guys who can sneak in and grab their share of offensive rebounds. Give the Knicks enough second chances and they’ll make you pay.

2. Bench

Unlike past seasons, the Knicks sport a pretty good bench this year. Lance Thomas and Derrick William have been great as back-up forwards, while Langston Galloway is one of the leaders in 3-point FG% on the team. While inconsistent, Jerian Grant has been a sparkplug to the Knicks from time to time. With the injuries to Roberson and Adams, guys like Steve Novak and DJ Augustin may see spot minutes. Cameron Payne, Dion Waiters, and Enes Kanter are going to have to be efficient when they are on the floor in this game.

3. KD, Russell, bright lights, MSG

Superstar performances and Madison Square Garden go hand in hand. Durant has yet to have a signature game this season. Although his stat line is great, he has yet to have a stretch where he has gone supernova like in years’ past. Westbrook has been struggling of late with his shot. Sometimes playing in a venue like Staples or MSG is a shot of adrenaline to some players. I look for one of the two, or both, to have great games tonight.

Thunder Killer – Opposing player most likely to have a breakout game against the Thunder:

Kristaps Porzingis – It’s easy to say Carmelo Anthony in this spot. But Anthony has been battling a sore knee and will be guarded by Durant, who likes to turn it up a notch defensively when he is playing a comparable foe. Porzingis, on the other hand, is a match-up nightmare for our available bigs. He’s basically Brook Lopez with an outside shot. He has hit two 3-pointers in each of the last four games. I

baka, Collison, and Durant are too small to contend with him on the inside, Adams is just a step slower on the perimeter, and Kanter is Kanter. While the thinking is that Durant or Westbrook will have a statement game tonight, it could actually be Porzingis that solidifies his mark on this season’s Rookie of the Year race. His career high is 29 points. If the Thunder don’t bring it tonight, I could definitely see him getting a new career high.