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Preview: Pooped Thunder must shine at Knicks’ toothless defense

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Westbrook has always swept the floor at MSG (once literally)

W. Bennett Berry

The Thunder, who last had a two day break between games back on Halloween, will try to squeeze a win out of the Big Apple. The New York Knicks, in year 2 under the guidance of zen master Phil Jackson, continue to be mired in mediocrity. A 8-8 record is decent for the Knicks, but the team only ranks 26th in defensive rating. It remains to be seen whether the Knicks can keep this current pace up, with an old core and a thin roster. Meanwhile, the Thunder are scarcely considered better, only amassing a 10-8 record.


Your head is up right now if you’re a Thunder fan. After a difficult 1-2 road trip, the Thunder came home on the second night of a back-to-back and beat the Detroit Pistons. The same Pistons who had shut out the Thunder by over 10 on the road. Certainly, OKC’s early lead helped in beating the Pistons at home. The Pistons are a team that likes to play a slow pace, so they struggle to overcome deficits and thrive in holding on to leads. The early lead was mostly made by Adams, who had 14 points at the half. But the Thunder rode their guards in the second half. Oladipo and Morrow hit a pair of outside shots in the second half, each. And Grant and Sabonis managed to provide threes as well. This left a lot of room for Westbrook to do his thing at the basket. Westbrook had four scores at the rim in the second half.


The Knicks are relatively good at getting second chance points and keeping the ball secure. To be sure, the Knicks are stocked with adept scorers in Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Derrick Rose. But both Anthony and Rose are well past their primes, and Porzingis is well below his. The rest of the team is filled out with veteran role players, along with a literal handful of unknown rookies. I am familiar with Kuzminskas and Hernangomez from their international play, and I see them both as limited role players who fill very specific roles. So I believe Jackson is bringing in these undrafted guys with the hopes of making them extremely cheap role players.


No way the Thunder can afford to lose to a team like the Knicks at this point. The Thunder are tired, as they have played 15 games in the past 27 days. But no part of the Knick defense has any particular bite. The Knicks rank in the bottom 11 of all defensive four factors. Joakim Noah is well past his days as an effective rim protector. As long as someone can score in the paint besides Westbrook, I believe a win will fall into place.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 119, New York Knickerbockers 111.

What do you think of tonight’s game? Let us know and drop a comment!


Injuries: Cameron Payne (Out), Lance Thomas (Questionable)

Time: 6:30 PM CST

Place: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York