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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New York Knicks game preview, odds, and prediction; plus an interview with ESPN analyst Dan Dakich

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An interview with ESPN’s “The Crossover” announcer Dan Dakich and in-depth preview analysis of OKC vs. New York

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of tonight's ESPN Playstation Vue Crossover finale pitting the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. visiting New York Knicks, longtime ESPN college basketball analyst Dan Dakich lent WTLC enthusiastic insight regarding his inaugural NBA broadcast assignment.

The former Indiana University guard also spoke candidly regarding both his Alma mater’s 1984 NCAA Tournament upset of the Michael Jordan-led UNC Tar Heels and his affinity for the people of Oklahoma City.

Joshua Broom: Good afternoon, Dan. I know you have an extensive background as a standout collegiate basketball player, coach, and broadcaster. How do you feel about entering the arena of NBA announcer for the first time?

Dan Dakich: “I am so thrilled to have this opportunity. I love the NBA. Growing up outside of Chicago (Gary, Indiana), following the NBA and its stars of the time was my passion. Playing in college, I always dreamed of one day making it to the NBA. So obviously, this is a great experience for me.”

Joshua Broom: What are your opinions regarding the game itself?

Dan Dakich: “Russell Westbrook is having a phenomenal year, and the people of Oklahoma City are great. The contest between OKC and New York should be competitive. I’m very excited for the atmosphere.”

Joshua Broom: You famously held Michael Jordan in check (6-of-14 FG, 14 pts) during the 1984 NCAA Tournament as your Hoosiers claimed a 72-68 Sweet 16 upset over Dean Smith’s touted crew. Take me back to that night. What are your recollections?

Dan Dakich: “Coach (Bob) Knight expected us to win. We felt like we should win. Indiana had defeated North Carolina in the tournament three years prior. So we felt like the better, tougher team.”

On guarding the legendary Micheal Jordan: “At the time I knew he (Jordan) was really good, but it wasn’t like I was guarding the legend he would become. At the time it didn’t seem like anything different. I just went about my job.”

Joshua Broom: Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to discuss these topics with me. It was a pleasure. Good luck on your NBA broadcasting debut.

Dan Dakich: “I’m happy to do so. I am glad they (ESPN) selected me to participate in tonight’s ESPN The Crossover. I cannot wait. Thank you.”

This interview was condensed and edited.

Mr. Dakich will join Ryan Ruocco (WNBA), Adam Schefter (NFL) and Jeff Van Gundy (NBA) to round out tonight’s special broadcast panel for Oklahoma City vs. New York. Be sure to check out The Dan Dakich Show on ESPN 1070 the fan weekdays from 12-3 PM ET.

Oklahoma City Thunder (31-25 #7 West) vs. New York Knicks (23-33 #12 East)

  • Time: 9:30 PM ET
  • Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena
  • TV: ESPN

The New York Knicks invade Chesapeake Energy Arena having lost seven of ten contests. However, recently, Jeff Hornacek’s backsliding crew rode Carmelo Anthony’s 25-point performance to a surprise win over San Antonio.

Conversely, Oklahoma City enters tonight’s festivities following undoubtedly its worst performance of the year vs. Washington. During a lethargic 120-98 trouncing, Russell Westbrook and company placed 24-consecutive bricks en route to being cast aside in a nightmare third quarter.

Many speculate that OKC’s precipitous downturn vs. former sideline general Scott Brooks’ booming iteration occurred as a result of emotional drainage from Saturday’s rendezvous with Kevin Durant and Golden State.

Speculation aside, the Thunder will need to restore their lost confidence tonight to establish crucial momentum heading into the All-Star break.

Oklahoma City defeated New York 112-103 from Madison Square Garden on Nov. 28. That night, Westbrook garnered one of his 26 seasonal triple-doubles with 28 points, 17 rebounds, and 14 assists.

Oklahoma City Thunder Keys To Victory

  • Limit Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. (The duo combines for an average of 41.7 ppg, 13.2 rpg, and four made threes per contest)
  • Exploit New York’s lack of depth. (Guys like Lauvergne, Morrow, Payne, Abrines, and Grant must step up at home)
  • Cross-matching delimmas. (With Roberson presumably guarding Anthony, OKC must find a way to consistently limit Porzingis from deep)
  • Attack from the mid-range (Even in today’s “space and pace” climate, OKC should play to its strengths, i.e. mid-range attempts)
  • Energy. Effort. Hustle. (Practicing these three keys alone could be enough to put a reeling team such as New York away relatively early)
  • Westbrook’s renewed swagger. (Obviously, Russ’ performance is crucial each night to this team’s chances. Westbrook must effectively attack the Knicks for 48 minutes)

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Following a hard-fought win vs. Cleveland, OKC has floundered. Tonight will present a marquee opportunity for an uncertain Thunder collective to re-establish confidence as Russell Westbrook readies himself for another run at All-Star MVP honors.

As stated, Porzingis’ blend of unparalleled size and floor-stretching abilities could pose a match-up quandary for Oklahoma City’s available personnel. This evening, Domantas Sabonis will need to close hard on Kristaps’ three-point attempts.

Overall, the Thunder has lost three of four outings.

NEW YORK KNICKS

After surprising many with a creditable start, the wheels have bolted off New York’s competitive caravan. Incessant trade rumors and controversy have replaced once palpable playoff visions to ensnare this embattled franchise.

Also of concern is the team’s lackluster defensive effort (108.6 DefRtg) that ranks #25 league-wide. Even so, the Knicks still wield a potent trio of Anthony, Porzingis and Derrick Rose. If bolstered by a decent bench-offering, this aforementioned collection can present risk to even a focused Oklahoma City grouping.

Projected Starting Lineups and Injury Reports

The Oklahoma City Thunder list Enes Kanter (Forearm) as out. Meanwhile, the New York Knicks list Joakim Noah (Hamstring) as questionable for tonight’s encounter.

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
  • Small Forward: Anthony Roberson
  • Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis
  • Center: Steven Adams

New York Knicks

  • Point Guard: Derrick Rose
  • Shooting Guard: Courtney Lee
  • Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony
  • Power Forward: Kristaps Porzingis
  • Center: Willy Hernangomez

Odds

Oklahoma City Thunder -7

In spite of the teams’ contrasting recent performances, the Vegas books still list OKC as a conspicuous favorite for tonight’s game.

The key matchup for Oklahoma City will be Sabonis/Lauvergne vs. Kristaps Porzingis. Also of major significance will be the absence of Enes Kanter. Kanter exploded for a season-best 27 point, ten rebound effort in OKC’s early-season win against New York.

Oklahoma City (103.9) ranks #21 in OffRtg. The Thunder’s DefRtg (105) had dropped to #10.

New York’s (105.2) OffRtg is 15th best in the association. As earlier mentioned, the Knicks’ DefRtg (108.6) is 25th.

Both Oklahoma City and New York (46.1 rpg) are tied as the NBA’s third-best rebounding unit.

The Knicks sport a 9-18 road record (9-14 overall vs. Western Conference). Oklahoma City enjoys a 19-8 home record.