Knicks Take 12th Straight Win in Wild Shootout With the Thunder

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What a game! I was confident in the Knicks’ chances considering they battled the Thunder down to the final shot at Madison Square Garden last month without Melo. The big concern was how our slower and older guards would handle the merciless penetration of Russell Westbrook and OKC’s strong frontline with Kenyon Martin sitting out his second game. The response came from our bench, who fought tooth and nail to set the table for the Knicks to outgun the Thunder in the final minute to pick up arguably their best road win of the season.

OKC LIVES AT THE FREE THROW LINE, THE KNICKS BEHIND THE ARC: The first quarter was very annoying to watch as the refs called a bunch of ticky-tack fouls on what seemed like every Knicks player. Any contact on Durant, no matter how light, resulted in a  foul call. Just four minutes in, Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni had two fouls apiece. Melo got his second a few minutes later, helping the Thunder get out to a 21-14 lead.

Like the first game, the Knicks were not intimidated and roared back behind two three-pointers from Jason Kidd. The Knicks would end up going 6/7 in the first quarter and were only down 31-30 despite the Thunder shooting over 60% from the field.

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COPES SHOWS AND PROVES: The knock on Chris Copeland is that while he can score, it’s offset by the fact he’s a huge defensive liability. That wasn’t the case today. Copeland’s first half offense was crucial in keeping the Knicks in it with Melo sitting. He had 13 points that came from behind the arc and also in the paint. On defense, he swatted away a Westbrook drive and had active hands in causing deflections. And with ball movement, he kept the forced shots to a minimum, giving a sweet assist to Steve Novak for an open trey (who was 2-4 from downtown in the first half).

The bench output was the main reason the Knicks were able to go up by as much as 12 in the first half before settling for a 65-56 halftime lead.

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SURVIVING THE RUNS: As expected, the Thunder made strong pushes in the third and fourth quarters. Each time, the Knicks had an answer. When the Thunder got to within a point (84-83) with 2:52 left in the third, Melo drained a three. When the Thunder took a brief fourth quarter lead, guys like Raymond Felton brought the momentum back.

Speaking of Ray, that man knows no fear in crunch time. Like he did in the fourth quarters against the Hawks and Bucks, he continued going right into the teeth of the defense. His aggressiveness resulted in 16 points and 8 assists.

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MELO WINS HIS DUEL: It’s been a minute since Durant and Melo went at each other and it didn’t disappoint. While Westbrook was the primary scorer this afternoon (37 points), Durant wasn’t too shabby either with his 27 points. However, Melo dropped 36 and was most impressive with his attack on the offensive glass, where he had a season-high in nine (12 rebounds total). It was a welcome sight to see Melo keep his cool and get the putbacks despite being fouled repeatedly. He had two key tip-ins (one off his own miss and another off a missed JR free throw) late that gave NY a little breathing room and set up the coup de grace…

JR CLOSES THE SHOW: JR Smith didn’t shoot well today. He missed a few open threes early in the fourth that could have ended some of the late drama. But like he’s done all throughout this winning streak, JR got it done when the game was on the line. With the Knicks clinging to a 115-113 lead, Smith hit a long jumper with the shot clock expiring to make it 117-113. And on the next possession, Smith bailed us out with a dagger three to ice it. Applaud this man.

THE BENCH: The Knicks bench outscored the Thunder’s 55-30. JR was JR with his 22 points, but Kidd’s 14 and Copeland’s 13 were huge contributions. A total team win.

THE CRITICS ARE QUIET: No one gave us any slack when we rolled out our banged up lineups, but we were quick to hear about how our recent Heat win didn’t mean anything with Wade and James sitting. Well, the Thunder were at full strength and out for blood. They were turned back on their home floor. Speaking of emphatic road wins, the Knicks have them in abundance this year against the Spurs, Heat (2X),Celtics and now Thunder.

The Knicks have their first 50 win season in 13 years and are just one win away from securing their first Atlantic division crown since 1994. Taking out the Thunder was their 12th straight win. And this is all without having a fully healthy roster the entire year.

You’re still not a believer? It doesn’t matter — the Knicks know they are for real.

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Knicks Game-Winner Falls Short, Thunder Win 95-94

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I’m not even mad at this one. Well, I’m not mad at the players. Coaching, that’s another matter. With Melo again sitting, no one gave the Knicks much of a chance to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. But for the entire game, the Knicks fought tooth and nail, putting themselves in position to take the win off a buzzer-beater from JR Smith, who spent much of the game lighting up whoever was assigned to guard him.

 

SURVIVING THE FIRST PUNCH: Coach Woodson started James White and Kurt Thomas again, but this time they contributed in their limited minutes. White hit two treys and Thomas hit a jumper and played decent defense. Nonetheless, the Thunder promptly began abusing the Knicks in transition to the tune of a 16-0 run to take a 23-13 lead. It was looking ugly, but the Knicks rallied behind their defense. Although they produced way too many fouls (10 free throw points), it kept the game from getting too out of hand, and the Knicks faced a 26-35 deficit after one quarter.

 

JR’s GREEN LIGHT: With Melo out, JR gunning was a formality. He delivered a scorching second quarter with 18 points. His shooting, which came on a nice mix of treys and drives to the basket, ignited the rest of the Knicks. Kenyon Martin was very physical with Kevin Durant, and K-Mart also supplied offense with a putback dunk and alley oop from JR.

 

THUNDER LIVES AT THE LINE: As hard as the Knicks played, their fouls allowed the Thunder to stay in it no matter the runs. Of course, there were questionable fouls. Other times, NY just made mental mistakes. A game like this is a perfect example of why Woody’s philosophy of constant defensive switching is bad news. On multiple plays, you saw Chandler and Stat isolated out on the perimeter against the likes of Durant and Westbrook. In all, OKC got 29 free throw attempts and made 25 of them. The most annoying pair came in the closing minutes when Woody took out Felton, who had just scored on a nice driving layup, to insert Martin on Durant. K-Mart promptly fouled in out 5 seconds, but gave up two free throws to Durant. You don’t want to pin a one-point loss on a random play, but that foul sticks out.

 

STAT HELD IN CHECK: We were all hoping for a big game from Amar’e, but OKC is not the Pistons. Serge Ibaka harassed Stat all night and turned him back at the rim no less than 4 times. Stat got a couple of good moves on him (including a nasty facial), but he never got a sustained rhythm, going 5-16 for 16 points in 28 minutes. On a positive note, Stat nabbed eight rebounds and made a concerted effort to crash the boards.

 

4TH QUARTER COLLAPSE, PART 2: Might be weird to read that considering the Knicks only lost by a point, but this was a slow death. No, it wan’t as dramatic as the damage the Heat did last weekend, but the same problems surfaced. The Knicks couldn’t score consistently (13 points in the quarter), who was settling for jumpers that were now off the mark. Going small with 3-4 guards only truly works if said guards can create their own shots, and the length of the OKC on the perimeter made that increasingly difficult. Still, the fact that the Knicks seemed content on jumpers with nothing going to the hole was frustrating to watch. And even with that, the Knicks got two stops in the final minute to get a chance to win it with 7 seconds left.

 

A TOUGH FADEAWAY JUMPER?: Of his 29 shots, the only one that truly baffled me was the long fadeaway JR took to end the game. His shot had been off for most of the fourth, so a drive to at least get him facing the basket for a better look would have been ideal.

As I said in the beginning, this loss doesn’t bother me much. K-Mart got significant playing time (which hopefully has opened Woody’s eyes), the team played with excellent effort, and nearly won a game they had no business even being in without their best player. Onto the next one, which is a home game against the Jazz Saturday night.

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Knicks Trade Ronnie Brewer to Thunder

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Knicks have completed a last-minute deadline trade that will send forward Ronnie Brewer to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for a future second round pick.

Brewer had a hot start for the Knicks in November and early December while a starter, recognized for being able to nail open three-pointers and force turnovers with his defense. However, Brewer’s production came to a grinding halt and Knicks Coach Mike Woodson benched him in favor of several lineups that have included the likes of Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace.

Brewer has seen little playing time in recent weeks and is averaging 3.6 points and 2.2 rebounds for the season.

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This doesn’t seem like a major move on the surface, but as many fans have already pointed out it leaves an empty roster spot. Already the speculation has centered around possibly nabbing Kenyon Martin, who’s yet to play this season, for our sorely lacking areas of rebounding and interior defense. While I’m sure no one is completely ecstatic about recreating the Denver Nuggets core, it can’t be much worse than the play we’ve seen on the court recently. With bruising defensive minded teams like Chicago, Boston and Indiana looming in the playoffs, the Knicks have to find some toughness quick and Martin may just be the answer.