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WTLC from the arena: Perkins returns to Chesapeake Arena for Thunder vs Knicks

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Our own Bobby “Last Chance” Chancellor brings you the lowdown from Chesapeake Energy Arena

via @UpTheThunder

On the way to the game tonight, I predicted a big win for our Oklahoma City Thunder. It felt like it was due, after an emotional weekend and a disheartening loss on Monday. The New York Knicks aren’t a good team and have had a lot of dysfunction this season, and with the circumstances leading up to this game, it seemed inevitable that they left on the wrong end of a blowout.

Through the first quarter, however, it started to look as if my prediction of a big win would be correct, just for the bad guys. Nothing the Thunder did could slow the Knicks down, with the result being a 17 point lead midway through the first half.

Despite all of this, I kept reiterating that OKC was going to come out on top by a solid margin. The Knicks offense simply didn’t seem sustainable, and there was no way that Russell Westbrook was going to lose 3 straight going into the break. Sure enough, some stops combined with some timely offense led to a second quarter comeback and a lead at the break.

At that point, everyone knew what the result would be; it was simply a matter of seeing it through. As expected, OKC walked away with a double digit victory, crucial both for the record and for morale going into what could be an emotional all-star break.

Game Notes

  • Ron “Justin Bieber” Baker did not look like he belonged on a basketball court. During warmups, I thought he was a ball boy, and the Knicks were treating him like one. He spent much of the warmup period chasing down rebounds for Carmelo.
  • Nick Collison made a 3 during the warmups! Every time I watch him, he bricks every shot he takes (which is incredibly sad to watch), but he swished a three from the corner today.
  • Sabonis approaches warmups as seriously as any player I’ve seen. While a lot of guys are messing around, just trying to loosen up, he is extremely focused and methodical about the shots that he takes. I noticed on a practice clip the other day that he approaches free times after practice the same way. Other guys mess around; he is extremely focused. A good sign for long term development, maybe.
  • Morrow shoots 95%+ in warmups. This is not an exaggeration.
  • For the second straight game that I’ve been to, the national anthem was instrumental, rather than vocal. This time? The OU trombone choir led by Dr. Irv Wagner, most famous for this feat:
  • Refs were pretty bad early in this one. Adams was getting mauled as usual. But beyond that, they gave Russ continuation on a foul in which he dribble after the contact, and waived off a made dunk from Jerami Grant despite it being a shooting foul. Roberson’s second foul was a terrible call, too. It was some of the lightest contact between those two of the entire game.
  • Kendrick Perkins was at the game! He got a huge, 30 second long standing ovation. I really think the fans just wanted someone to cheer for after that other former player we saw in the building.
  • Big Perk also got put on the kiss cam. This, of course, drew another big applause.
  • Sabonis had some great defensive contests in the first quarter that didn’t matter. This was somewhat true for the entire team, but there were several times that it felt like Domas played it perfectly and the difficult shot just dropped.
  • The first 16 or so minutes of this one felt like a survival period. The Knicks offense was clearly unsustainable, and it was just a matter of staying within striking distance and waiting for them to cool off. Sure enough, they scored just 11 points in the last 9 minutes of the second quarter after scoring 39 in the first period.
  • There was one possession in the first half that had some of the best ball movement from the Thunder all season. Every player touched the ball at least once, the ball moved from side to side quickly, and drives were decisive and in control. It resulted in a made 3, and looked very Spurs-esque.
  • The go-ahead 3 from Robes was such an emotional roller coaster from the crowd. When he released it, audible groans started, but when it dropped the arena completely erupted. It felt like a weight had been lifted.
  • The Knicks had one set they kept trying to run that Roberson kept breaking up. They would run a basic pick-and-roll with Rose and Hernangomez with Carmelo on the wing and Porzingis in the corner. But it seemed like they had no plan for when the roll-man was taken away. Adams and Russ/Dipo would trap Rose, Dre would rotate onto the big to deny the pass, but the only option for an outlet was to Carmelo, allowing him to immediately jump that passing lane. He got a deflection at least once, but generally just forced the Knicks offense about 5 feet further from the rim.
  • At one point Donovan tried to get away with having 6 men defend. I suppose that would probably be effective. It took awhile for anyone to notice, too.
  • Morrow hit a half court shot during the 2nd half warmup. Like I said, he doesn’t miss.
  • The Thunder does this thing on the big screen where they use movie clips to illustrate the arena rules. It’s one of my favorite parts of the game. Tonight, it was Lego Batman.
  • Crowd was dead during the 3rd quarter. Part of a late start, I guess.
  • Donovan did a good job at taking advantage of the bad players to get some shooters in. Ron Baker and Lance Thomas weren’t an offensive threat, so he could play Abrines and Morrow more together.
  • Payne was pretty clearly hunting passes rather than shots. He turned down quite a few good looks to pass back out. I think once he settles in and finds a balance, the second unit will begin to run more smoothly.
  • Overlooked in this game was the return of Lance Thomas! He had a nice travel-and-one in the second half. The crowd reaction was non-existent. I may have been the only one there who remembered that he played for us.
  • Two rookies for the Knicks spent every timeout running suicides of sorts. Over-achievers.
  • The Melo-Roberson battle got reallllyyyy chippy in the second half. There was a lot of hand-fighting, forearms, and hip checks. Refs mostly let them play though.
  • Offense looks nice when the 3 ball drops.
  • Dre was pretty upset after that missed dunk when he got blocked. Stayed behind on defense to talk to the ref. That’s probably the first time he’s ever not run back because he didn’t like a call. Granted, we were up about 15 at the time.
  • All-Star break time! Westbrook, Abrines, and Sabonis all slated for events.