New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher had a simple conclusion for Kevin Durant’s lone appearance at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.
"He played well and they wanted [it]."
Durant scored a season-high 44 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and helped the Oklahoma City Thunder pull away from the New York Knicks with a 128-122 overtime win in NYC. Russell Westbrook recorded 30 points and 10 assists to help deliver the win.
Westbrook and Durant had the Thunder’s first six points in the overtime to give their team a 118-116 edge. Langston Galloway’s three cut Knicks’ deficit to 120-119 with 1:43 on the clock, but that was the closest the Knicks could get. Westbrook’s transition jumper and Durant’s free throws secured Thunder’s win.
Langston Galloway had 21 points off the bench for the Knicks. Arron Afflalo scored 17, but he missed a potential winning turn-around jumper at the buzzer before the two teams headed to overtime with the score tied at 113.
"I hadn’t made shots all night for whatever reason," said Afflalo who finished the game with 6-of-21. "I have to take personal responsibility for those. I felt like it was going in when it left my hand but it didn’t for some reason."
The Knicks had no solution to the Thunder duo, but the Melo-less Knicks caused enough trouble for the visiting team to handle. There were moments made people think the Knicks would complete a sweep over the Thunder this season.
The Knicks kicked off the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run. Even with Durant scoring eight straight points to give the Thunder a 109-106 cushion, Galloway responded with a cold-blooded three. The Knicks then took a four-point lead with 59 seconds left in the regulation, but Serge Ibaka’s basket off an offensive rebound with 16 seconds remaining and Durant’s jumper brought the Thunder back to life.
"It was a wild pin down." Durant said. "They were screening well and I had a one-on-one with the big. I work on that pull-up jumper shot every day."
Dion Waiters started for third time of the season due to a sprained right knee sidelined Andre Roberson. He contributed with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, as well as some clutch physical defense against Afflalo down the stretch.
Steven Adams went back to the starting lineup after missing two games because of elbow injury. He had four boards (all offensive) in the first quarter alone and finished with nine points and eight rebonds, including six offensive.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
It seemed surprising how close the score was, given that the Thunder had Steven Adams back in the lineup and Carmelo Anthony missed the game because of soreness of the left knee. Never the less, a win is a win, and that saved Thunder from being buried in the blizzard in New York and dropping their 2nd straight.
It was a highly entertaining game from a fan's perspective. (Although I couldn't explain why I saw a reporter actually fall asleep... )
The game had everything you can imagine: Durant’s crossovers, Westbrook’s escalating dunks, Kristaps Porzingis’ unicorn put-back dunks and oh... former Thunder LanceThomas’ revenge. He started the game in Melo's absence and had 14 points off some spectacular moves.
"I felt great," Thomas said. "There were times when I was tired but whenever I feel like I am tired I remember why I am out there... I am out there fighting for my teammates. I never want them to see me mentally tired."
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
The answer is simple: the dynamic duo took over the game when they were needed the most. A more in-depth question based on the game would be: why did the Thunder almost lose when their offense was in full-swing?
Their defense should take the blame. The Knicks dropped 63 points in the first half to lead by two. But the Thunder's offensive turned out just enough for the win. The duo aside, Cameron Payne should also get credit for his big heart as he hit a pair of threes to end Thunder's drought at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Thunder Wonder: Durant for a season-high 44 points.
Thunder Down Under: Payne for ending the drought in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Thunder Blunder: Enes Kanter for shooting 0-of-6. His lone two points came from the line. (I did see him sing himself out of the locker room after the win.)
Thunder Plunderer: Langston Galloway. His performance fired up the crowd 10000 times and was almost enough for a Knicks' win.
Next game: vs Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, Jan.27 at 7PM CDT