This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Records: Mavericks 32-20, Thunder 30-21
Time: 6:30 PM
Place: Madison Square Garden
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), WWLS 640-AM
Enemy Blog(s): Posting and Toasting, Knickerblogger
Backstory: Back in January when we last played the Knicks, Zorgon noted:
Their [Knicks] record is a bit better than it used to be, but that's only because of victories over crap Eastern teams and teams that lack defense. Since the Thunder are largely a defensive team, I wouldn't say we have anything to worry about.
That pretty much still continues to hold true. The Knicks aren't likely as terrible as most people think. Offensively they are obviously pretty flashy, but a glance at the stats indicates that they are somewhat above average offensively and somewhat below average defensively (at least prior to making themselves even worse in this regard; more on that later). They've beaten good teams this year and lost to bad teams, so inconsistency is their calling card.
In an attempt to completely revamp their roster (and clear even more cap room for the summer) New York acquired Tracy McGrady from Houston and Sergio Rodriguez from Sacramento (trading Larry Hughes, Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries in the deal) and sent Nate Robinson to Boston in a separate trade. Obviously this changes the Knicks roster quite a bit from our last meeting, when hotel ghosts evidently aided in our win. Jared Jeffries is a legit defensive do-it-all combo guard/forward, and by trading him any vestiges of defensive effort pretty much just went out the window. Nate Robinson isn't really going to be missed as much as some might think, since his tendency to go insane generally occurs only when the outcome of any given game is already decided.
The Thunder go into this game having won 7 games in a row. For the Knicks, this game is more of an opportunity to show off Tracy McGrady. If they happen to win, that'll be gravy on top. For the Thunder, winning is important because we completely outclass this team and need to lock up the "gimme" games. If you watched the game last time we played them, the Knicks were overwhelmed the entire way through, and there was basically no point at which anyone in their right mind would have thought that they were going to pull out a win.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Probable starters (source: NewsOK.com)
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Chris Duhon
Duhon takes good care of the ball and can knock down shots if Westbrook leaves him open, but Russell Westbrook is basically flat out better at the point than Chris Duhon. Look for Westbrook to continue his string of ridiculous stat-sheet stuffing games. Heck, I'd take Maynor over Duhon here.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Wilson Chandler / Tracy McGrady
Chandler continues to improve as the season progresses. He's averaging 19.2 points and 4.4 rebounds over his last five outings, scoring at least 20 in four of his last 10. He scored 26 points against the Bulls on Wednesday. In 33 minutes he shot 10 of 14 from the field, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range, with five rebounds and two assists. This should make for an intriguing matchup, as Thabo is superb at locking down undersized guards and forwards who opt for shooting it from the field rather than driving to the basket. That said, Chandler might very well take it to the hoop given his strength and rebounding prowress, so we'll have to see how it all plays out. If McGrady starts here, I expect much of the same to happen. McGrady's game has shifted away from the full-on-contact into-the-paint play of the past and transitioned into much more of an outside game -- any attempt at continuing that is going to play right into Thabo's strengths. If he plays like he did in the past ... that version of McGrady was neigh unstoppable. Of course, even a half-strength come-back version of T-Mac is going to be a handful to contain, so this could be a far more interesting matchup than I'm giving it credit for.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari can score, but don't expect him to do much against KD. With Gallinari/Chandler/Harrington as some bizarre mix of interchangeable parts, it'll be interesting to see who ends up playing where.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Al Harrington
This is going to be another interesting matchup. Harrington was a force on the offensive end in the past, but he's shown little in the way of rebounding ability thus far this year. When on his game he used to be a decent defender, but now ... yeah. We all know Jeff Green's abilities and flaws. If I were to hazard a guess here ... Jeff Green is going to have quite the field day. Regardless of who ends up starting or playing opposite of Jeff Green here, they will be another undersized PF. Jeff Green generally does well against undersized PF types.
* As mleetch352 noted, with T-Mac starting it'll likely be Gallo or Chandler here opposite of Green. The outcome isn't probably going to change significantly, as all of these guys are pretty much players of the same mold.
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. David Lee
David Lee is a bonafide scoring and rebounding machine who plays little defense. Krstic is a bonafide scoring center who has seemingly had trouble scoring recently. Look for Ibaka and Collison to come in and get some serious minutes, particularly if Krstic struggles early.
Battle of the Benches:
Our bench has been superb lately, and I'll have to side with us in this regard. The big question mark is McGrady. Regardless, I'm far more confident in Ibaka, Maynor, Harden, Collison and company.
Coaching and Intangibles:
We're on a 7-game winning streak and playing well. The Knicks are going to be field-testing their new acquisitions. Advantage us.
As long as the Thunder stay true to their defensive formula, this game should be a piece of cake. The Knicks are going to be showcasing McGrady more than anything else, so look for him to get heavy minutes at the cost of any possibility of winning the game.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 110, New York 90
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll (too bad I screwed this poll up, but whatever)!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below.
Who will win tonight?
This poll is closed
Oklahoma City Thunder
New York Knicks