2012-2013 Game 61 Preview: FINALLY! The Thunder See the Knicks

I don't know anything about Mad Men, but I'm 100% sure Nick Collison does. - William Bennett Berry

The question of Carmelo Anthony's health will likely determine the outcome of tonight's game. Are we to see a blowout, or a barnburnin' humdinger?

2012-2013 NBA Season
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The Oklahoma City Thunder (42-16)
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The New York Knickerbockers (37-21)
March 7th, 2013
Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
7:00 PM CST
Turner Network Television Only
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), ESPN New York 98.7 FM
Enemy Blogs: Posting and Toasting, Buckets Over Broadway, Knicks Journal, Knickerblogger
Previous Meetings: None.
Injury Report: Carmelo Anthony (Questionable), Rasheed Wallace (Out)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Raymond Felton
Thabo Sefolosha SG Iman Shumpert
Kevin Durant SF James White (Carmelo Anthony?)
Serge Ibaka PF Kurt Thomas (Really Amare)
Kendrick Perkins C Tyson Chandler

I'll confess something right now. Before I did the research for this article, I hadn't seen the Knicks play once this season. Since both of my favorite teams play in the West, I have a bit of a West Coast bias when it comes to the NBA. And for some reason, I've just never been inspired to watching this team play.

But after gleaning the stats and doing some hardcore Synergy-watching, I feel like I have a finger on the pulse of this team. Obviously, they're centered around the scoring duo of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. Because both of them work best in isolation sets, they'll often be just handed the ball and sent to work. Both kick it when necessary, and they've got an array of different weapons to distribute it to. The bench is full of a rotating array of shooters who are especially handy during fast breaks. D'Antoni may have left this team, but they still love to run when they can.

Otherwise, Raymond Felton is a capable passer and scorer, often finding Amare Stoudemire or Tyson Chandler on a pick and roll. Despite this, the Knicks aren't a very good passing team. The majority of their offense will be made from exploiting one-on-one matchups (watch out, Derek). They rank as the league's second-worst passing team, but the lack of ball movement also accounts for their low turnover rate, which is best in the league.

Regardless of the stats, the Knicks ability to beat the Thunder will rest on Carmelo Anthony's health. At the time of this writing, he's questionable for tonight with a knee injury. He's a huge part of their offense, and taking him out of the lineup puts a lot more pressure on Felton and Chandler to produce. This requires them to pass the ball a lot more than usual, which could lead to a higher turnover rate. (It did on Wednesday against Detroit.) And we all know how great the Thunder would be in the open floor, especially against an Anthonyless team.

Should Anthony play, this game will be quite the humdinger. Kevin Durant had had some fearsome scoring battles with Carmelo Anthony since the Thunder moved to Oklahoma City, and there's never been a bigger stage for the two to stand on.

At the end of the day, tonight's game should be a battle of possessions. The Knicks will generally find a way to shoot relatively well regardless of their opponent. But they could very easily lose a rebounding battle because of a weak bench, and they can lose a turnover battle because of their lack of handles. Additionally, their bench is basically a rotating cast of thousands, so a weirdly bad lineup could screw the pooch. Then again, the Thunder don't exactly have their bench figured out yet, so tonight's game is pretty much up in the air.

Is this a preview of the NBA Finals? I certainly hope so.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 109, New York Knicks 107.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.

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