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Thunder vs. New York Knicks: Pre-game primer

Thunder vs. New York Knicks: Pre-game primer


Oklahoma City Thunder (1-7) vs. New York Basketball Knicks (5-3)Friday, November 14Madison Square GardenNew York, New York6:30 PM CST

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)First, love this question from Bill Simmons’ mail bag today: “Perhaps the biggest story in the NBA that nobody is talking about is the sheer size of PJ Carlesimo’s glasses. It looks like he took the windshield out of a ’68 Catalina, chopped it in half and attached some industrial strength frames. This is perhaps the most unfortunate eyewear selection since George Costanza chose his new look from the Gloria Vanderbilt collection.” Spot on. I can’t believe I’ve let eight games go by never commented on those goggles. I’ve thought about it numerous times as I watched Peej stroll the sidelines with his arms crossed and those massive windows on his face. But I never thought to say anything about it. Nor could I have articulated it as perfectly as that. All P.J.needs now is that little chain around his neck so he can wear ’em while he’s playing Canasta.Oh yeah, tonight’s game. The Running D’Antoni’s are off to a nice start and people in New York are ecstatic about the change. The team is playing fast and loose and Knicks fans are actually clapping and cheering rather than booing and chanting fire someone.With the Knicks tossing up a season best 132 in regulation against the Grizz this week, and OKC allowing 71 in a half against Orlando, is it possible New York could touch triple-digits in the first half? Oh yeah, yeah, the defense is improved. But it better be really improved if you want to slow down the Bockers. New York hit 19 threes against Memphis and just ran the Grizzlies right out of the building.Honestly, this is a decent matchup for the Thunder. Kevin Durant is a game-time decision and if he doesn’t play, it will likely be another attempt to just keep it within 20. But if he’s playing, I think OKC can play with them. Through eight games, the Thunder has played best when playing loose and fast. They’ve played worst when trying to run terribly simple half-court sets. Most experts would say not to fall into D’Antoni’s game and try and run with them. I say do it. Especially if the KD isn’t playing. Try to score with them. Throw Russell Westbrook in there and see how fast he can run from one end to the other. It may not work and OKC may still lose, but that’s better than running some painful, 20 second halfcourt set that ends up with a Desmond Mason fadeaway clanking off the rim hitting a running Jamal Crawford in stride and the Knicks scoring .006 seconds later, right? Right now, OKC is 28th in the league averaging 88.5 points per game. The Knicks average 103.4 a game. Unless the Thunder intend to play out of their minds defensively tonight, they are going to have to score with the Knicks. And like I said, from what I’ve seen through eight games, a lot of times they score the best when pushing the tempo. That doesn’t mean looking at the shot clock and seeing it’s at 18 and thinking, “Oh crap. I gotta shoot!” It means, not walking the ball up the court and trying to run some lame motion set that goes nowhere. Press the pace but still take wise shots. That’s how OKC dug itself out of holes against Utah and Orlando. That’s how it built a 15 point lead in Indiana. Play loose. Play fast. But play smart. Because like I said, I just don’t know if there’s hope to beat the Knicks tonight by scoring 85 and holding them to 84. Unless they come out cold, which is a possibility.

What to watch for:

I’m actually pretty excited for this game because I’m anxious to see how Jeff Green responds after one of the best games of his career. He threw up 25 and 10 and was very aggressive but still played within himself. Obviously, if there’s no Durant, he’ll have to do more of that, but honestly, if there is Durant, he needs to do more of that. He’s that second scorer the Thunder’s dying for right now. I realize 25 and 10 isn’t reasonable on a night-in, night-out basis, but 18 and 8 is.

It’s the same thing every preview, so I’m just going to put it briefly: OKC needs to play four complete quarters. No slow start. No drag in the second quarter. No lackluster close of the fourth. A complete game. If you’re going to play your tails off, don’t do it trying to make up a 25 point deficit. Do it trying to build a 25 point lead.