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Thunder vs Knicks preview: Carmelo Anthony makes 1st return trip to the Garden

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NBA: Detroit Pistons at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The final leg of the Thunder’s reunion road trip tips off at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 pm cst. Carmelo Anthony is returning home for the first time since allowing his trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder just days before training camp and it is anyone’s guess how the Knick faithful will greet him.

The long anticipated trade with the Denver Nuggets that brought Anthony to New York in February of 2011 was heralded as the launching point of a Knick dynasty. However, after a promising start that included 3 straight playoff appearances, the Knicks failed to reach the post-season in Melo’s final four seasons. History can be unkind, and the Melo era will be remembered more for its drama than any playoff success.

Indiana fans booed Paul George relentlessly even though he gave the Pacers time to walk away with two young players that have shown tremendous promise and not the empty sack #35 left the Thunder. Like George, Melo made his feelings known to the Knicks long ago although his ability to limit what teams he was willing to go to may have limited their options. Knick fans are tough but fair, I predict a warm welcome and then some tough "gamemanship" from the crowd at the Garden tonight.

Speculation all through the summer put Anthony in a Rockets uniform this season, but when Sam Presti offered Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the Chicago Bulls second round draft pick in exchange for Anthony, the Knicks presented him the deal and Melo agreed to add the Thunder to his trade list.

The Knicks, minus Carmelo Anthony, are sporting a 15 and 13 record. Identical to their record in 2016/17 after twenty-eight games and are 3 and 0 on their current 4 game home stand.

The Thunder are back to .500 for the first time since November 15th after winning a triple-overtime marathon against the upstart 76’ers last night. That success may be short-lived however since the Thunder’s legs aren’t the only casualties for blowing an eleven point lead and going scoreless in the last 5 minutes of regulation.

Steven Adams suffered a concussion in the second overtime of Friday night’s win when Joel Embiid got away with a viscious elbow to Adam’s chin that visibly snapped the young New Zealander’s head back in clear view of NBA referee Ed Malloy:

Embiid missed the shot, injured Adams with a deliberate and unnecessary elbow to Adam’s chin, but wasn’t whistled until he fouled Westbrook after Russ gathered up the rebound. Nothing for the shot to Adam’s chops. The referees didn’t even stop play to take a look.

We all remember this NBA reffing gem:

Melo double pumps (a legit shot attempt), makes the shot, Jusuf Nurkic fouls Melo with his face, gets grazed in the chin but goes down like he was shot with a Howitzer. Is up a few moments later, never misses a second of playing time, but Carmelo Anthony is whistled for a Flagrant 2, gets ejected from the game, has his made shot erased and the and-one free throw he deserves taken away. Incidently, the Thunder lost that game by 4. Maybe it’s me, but the NBA crew, both court and replay center, stealing 3 points and a star player from the Thunder may have played a factor in that loss.

For the record and Adam’s future reference, to get the calls you deserve in this league, apparently you have to roll around on the ground and bawl like a big crybaby. Whether that be shots to the head that nearly knock you unconscious or shots to the pills that could do much worse.

Knicks Starting Line-up

image courtesy of nba.com

The Knicks second leading scorer is Tim Hardaway, Jr. Although he comes off the bench, Hardaway averages the most minutes, 34.1/gm, and is the team’s second leading scorer averaging 17.8 pts/gm.

Without Adams in the lineup, the Thunder will have its hands full keeping Enes Kanter off the offensive glass. Whether Coach Billy Donovan will follow previous precedence and start Dakari Johnson, who played well during Adams 3-game absence in mid November, averaging 6.3 pts and just short of 2 TRB per game in 3 Thunder wins, or go with Patrick Patterson who made 2 key defensive plays in the last minutes of the third overtime of last night’s win after Adams fouled out is unclear at this time.

To pull this one off and finish the “Reunion Tour” unscathed, the Thunder will have to curb their appetite for isolation ball, control the glass, and keep live turnovers to a minimum.

Poll

Who do you think will win tonight?

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  • 74%
    Thunder
    (571 votes)
  • 25%
    Mavericks
    (199 votes)
770 votes total Vote Now