The Knicks don’t make it a secret with what they want to do. They want to run the floor, get to the rim and make 3-pointers. And when you let them do all three with relative ease, you’re not winning. You’re just not.
In most cases, it means you lose by double-digits. Which was the case tonight as New York beat Oklahoma City 112-98.
The Thunder had a couple of things working against them. This was the fourth game in five nights, plus the second of a back-to-back against the high-octane Knicks. New York badly needed a win after dropping three straight. And it just seemed like the Knicks made everything they looked at.
OKC defense had a lot to do with it, but that’s the risk you run when you let a team get into their flow. The Knicks were in their offensive rhythm early on. Drive and kick, run the floor, pick-and-roll. It’s a simple formula that Mike D’Antoni has, but when you have guys making shots, it works. Really, really well I might add. New York went 10-21 from 3, had 30 assists and shot over 50 percent. They made pretty much every open look they had and the Thunder was kind enough to gift them a good number of them.
In the first half, OKC kept pace for most of the half behind a combined 34 from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But at some point, it was clear the Thunder just couldn’t keep up. It’s something that happens to OKC a lot. They play the other guy’s game almost always. I guess they have to too, since I don’t know really what the Thunder’s identity is. Pretty much they just play what the other guy does and tries to do it better. That’s not necessarily a bad thing to be flexible, but it can catch up to you when you play a group like the Knicks that play their style really well.
If the Thunder lost the game anywhere, it was the last two minutes of the third. OKC had cut into a 16-point Knicks lead and got the game down to eight at one point. But instead of getting the quarter closed under 10, New York finished on a small 6-2 run, but that took the lead to 12 instead of six or eight. And it kind of sucked the life out of the Thunder. There really was no opportunity to crank things up in the fourth and the game never got close.
- The Thunder didn’t necessarily look flat to me out of the locker room after halftime, but more unorganized. It just didn’t seem like OKC ever had a real clear vision or gameplan tonight. It all seemed like the Thunder hoped to score with the Knicks behind their pure talent.
- I really don’t understand why Serge Ibaka got squeezed for only 19 minutes in this one. The Thunder did really well on the offensive glass (22 offensive boards!) and overall with a 53-43 edge and Ibaka was a big part of that. The Thunder didn’t have any interior presence in the second half and that was largely because Ibaka sat. I don’t get it.
- The Thunder shot just 39 percent and it was mainly because everything was a jumper. Poor ball movement (15 assists), bad shot making and a lot of settling. Not a good offensive night.
- KD really seemed ready to have a big offensive night after 13 first quarter points and 19 at the half. He finished with 26 on 9-18 shooting.
- I think the Thunder should model their in-game music after the Knicks. Some music played while the ball’s in play, but mostly organ and defense chants. The Thunder needs to find an organ. It’s so classic. It needs to happen.
- Russell Westbrook scored the ball well but was 10-24 from the floor and seemed to force things. The offense is sometimes carried by Russ, but in this case his takeover really made everyone stand around. I love it when Westbrook owns a game but he has to keep his guys playing too. Hard to balance, but it’s a key thing for a scoring point guard like him.
- Jeff Green shot the ball really poorly. Just 6-19 and 1-6 from 3. I actually thought his effort on Stoudemire wasn’t horrible though. He forced a lot of jumpers and worked hard to keep Stoudemire outside.
- I really, really wish OKC had a guy that was reliable at hitting an open 3 (other than Durant). It’s something I crave.
- Scott Brooks must’ve been really managing minutes in this one because everyone’s were held down pretty well. That happens when you get blown out, but it was evident throughout the game too.
- The box score says Nick Collison didn’t have a rebound. How is that possible?
- Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields were really the difference makers in this one. They combined for 35 on 14-23 shooting including 5-7 from 3.
I don’t hate this loss. The Knicks aren’t bad, it was on the road on the second night of a back-to-back, plus New York needed a win badly. Oklahoma City has done really well on the road this season, but this isn’t a game I think we’re going to shake our fists at by the end of the season. It wasn’t a game I expected the team to drop, but a loss isn’t shocking. A more competitive balance throughout would’ve been nice and we saw some major defensive flaws exposed again, but losing to good teams on the road is something we should be able to live with.
Next up: The Nuggets at home Christmas day.