Knicks vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

 vs. 

Knicks (23-33, 9-18 road) vs. Thunder (31-25, 19-8 home)

TV: ESPN/FSOK
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 8:30 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 103.9 (21st), Knicks – 105.2 (15th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.0 (10th), Knicks – 108.6 (25th)

The day before the break. We all remember what that Friday was like before Christmas break or before summer break. Just looking at the clock, counting the seconds down. Don’t think for a second it doesn’t happen to professional athletes. For all the utopian wishes we have for athletes to play hard every second of every game, human nature is what it is. And when there is a break approaching, many eyes will be on the counting down of that clock.

Getting what amounts tobe an entire week off, in-season, used to be unheard of for basketball, baseball, and hockey. The NBA All-Star Weekend used to be just that, a weekend. Most teams are off by Thursday. All-Star festivities Friday through Sunday, and then back to work for many by Tuesday. If you weren’t a part of the All-Star festivities, then you were almost considered lucky. If you were, it was basically like working the entire weekend.

For many home teams, relaxation can take hold on the games before the break. In the two days leading up to the All-Star break last season, home teams were just 7-7 last season. For the sake of concentration, I think it’s sometimes better to be the road team in the game leading into the All-Star break. When you are at home, you tend to let other things distract you (namely vacation plans). But as the road team, that relaxation doesn’t normally take place until after the game, when you are on the team plane heading back home.

Season Series Summary

This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Knicks. The Thunder beat the Knicks earlier this season in New York, 112-103, as Russell Westbrook ended up with a monster triple-double of 27 points, 18 rebounds, and 14 assists.

The Opponent

The Knicks come into this game with a 23-33 record, having lost 4 of their last 5 games. After starting the season 16-13, the Knicks have gone on to lose 20 of their next 27 games. Their once promising season has been derailed by in-fighting between team president Phil Jackson and team star Carmelo Anthony. At the core of the issue is Anthony’s no-trade clause that not only keeps Anthony on the books, but also keeps the team from completely building around Kristaps Porzingis. This in-fighting has caused the team to spiral out of contention and into another lottery bound season.

Aside from Anthony and Porzingis, who are both having good seasons, Derrick Rose has had a bit of a career renaissance with New York. He has remained relatively healthy and has shown flashes throughout the season of the player that once won an MVP for the Chicago Bulls. Courtney Lee does a good job of spacing the floor for the Knicks, shooting nearly 42% from distance. Willy Hernangomez and Justin Holiday give the Knicks good, young role players they can start to build a bench around.

Injuries:

  • Enes Kanter (forearm)

3 Big Things

1. Points in the Paint

The Thunder are second in the league in points in the paint at 49.4 per game. Conversely, the Knicks are one of the worst at stopping points in the paint (along with the Thunder) giving up 46.3 points per game (26th in the league). If Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams can have their way in getting into the paint, the Thunder should be able to score a large swath of points from the painted area.

2. Offensive Rebounding

The Knicks are the worst team in the league at defensive rebound %. Of the available defensive rebounds, they only grab 74.1% of them. On the other end of the spectrum, the Thunder are the 4th best team in the league at collecting offensive boards, grabbing 27.1% of the available offensive boards. Steven Adams seems to be on an offensive rebounding hot steak, especially in the first half of the last few games and I don’t expect that to stop in this game.

3. Bench

The attack cannot stop when Number 0 goes to the bench. I don’t care if it’s Cameron Payne, Victor Oladipo, or Joffrey Lauvergne, the reserves have to keep their foot on the gas. It’s how the Thunder were able to beat the Cavaliers a couple games ago. It’s how the Thunder completely lost any chance of being competitive in the Golden State game. The bench cannot completely stagnate for the 8-12 minutes Westbrook is off the floor.