[Video] Knicks Hold Off Late Thunder Run, Win 93-90

LanceThomas_dunk

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

 

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — We still haven’t fixed our fourth quarter woes, but I’ll tolerate them if we keep pulling out victories. Last night, the Knicks saw their 16-point lead erased by a 24-11 run in the fourth quarter but avoided overtime and defeated the Thunder on the road 93-90.

Bad fourth aside, there was a lot of good to take away from this one. Melo was clutch (aside from two missed free throws) in his 25 points, hitting some timely shots to OKC at bay. Lance Thomas and Derrick Williams were our biggest bench contributors with a combined 21 points with 60% shooting from downtown.

Speaking of threes, New York  was 12/20 on the night while holding OKC to 10% (3/29) from deep.

Nonetheless, the Thunder were one lucky bounce from taking this game into overtime. We lost the rebounding battle badly (36-49) and will need to tighten that up tonight against the Rockets.

***************

[Video] Westbrook Drops 40, But Knicks Top Thunder 100-92

Melo_Lance

The Knicks notched their third straight home victory last night with an impressive win over the Thunder. Although playing without Kevin Durant (sprained left foot big toe), New York had to contend with Russell Westbrook, who torched the Knicks earlier this year. This time around, Westbrook went for 40 points (13-30 shooting), but couldn’t overcome the Knicks three-pronged attack of Carmelo Anthony (31 points, 10 rebounds), Langston Galloway (18 points) and Lance Thomas (17 points).

The game was tightly contested the entire way and came down for the fourth quarter, where New York’s season has been mired by heart-breaking collapses. Tim Hardaway Jr. (14 points) was pivotal in keeping the Knicks in front with three 3-pointers in the period. New York had an 11-point lead with under three minutes to go, but saw that sliced to five in the final minute due to porous defense. Lance Thomas, on his second 10-day contract, hit a short turnaround jumper to ice the game with 45 seconds left.

Two unheralded contributors last night were Jason Smith (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Lou Amundson (5 points, 10 rebounds).

The Knicks are back in action tonight on the road against Indiana.

[Video] Returning Westbrook and OKC Maul Knicks 108-75

Shumpert_Westbrook

By the time the first quarter ended, the Melo-less Knicks had scored a just 13 points on 30% shooting and were looking at a 17-point deficit. Being a “Knicks loyalist” feels more like being a sadist these days, as the team never got within striking distance and ended up losing 105-78.

WESTBROOK UNSTOPPABLE: In his first game back from a broken right hand, Westbrook was a terror on the Knicks’ hapless defense. He slashed to the rim for dunks and layups, hit pullup jumpers, and even dished the ball when necessary. He ended up with 32 points and 8 assists, with most of his damage being done in the first 24 minutes with OKC scoring a season-high 59 first half points. New York was held to just 33, the second fewest all season by an OKC opponent.

EMBARRASSING DEFICITS: Jose Calderon’s return has seen a marked improvement in the ball movement, but the team is still composed of too many players that can’t create their own shots and have to settle for long, contested jumpers. The Knicks were 2/19 from three-point land and could only muster 39% shooting from the field.Only two players managed double figures (Stat, 20 points and Hardaway, 11 points). In the second quarter, the Knicks were down 40-13. By the third, the deficit had ballooned to 37 points.

ALARMING NUMBERS: Right now, the Knicks are out of the playoffs by about 4 games. However, the team has went 0-3 on this road trip and 1-9 in their last 10 games.The schedule gets much tougher in December, meaning if the NY doesn’t find some type of continuity in the next several weeks, it’s likely they’ll be a lottery team headed into 2015.

MELO UPDATE: Our leader spoke to the media before the game and advised he’s getting “closer” to coming back from back spasms that started during the first quarter of the Rocket game. In addition, he’s still dealing with some nagging left knee soreness.

UP NEXT: New York gets their first crack at the new look Miami Heat on Sunday night at MSG. Although nowhere near as bad as the Knicks, the Heat are also off to a sluggish start with an 8-7 record.

[youtube http://youtu.be/mj2536ZOnA0]

[Video] Carmelo Anthony’s Rolled Ankle Puts OKC Christmas Game In Doubt

Melo_ankle

Carmelo Anthony is hopeful that he’ll be able to play in tomorrow’s big Christmas game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but cautioned that the ankle injury he suffered against the Orlando Magic Monday night makes it a game-time decision.

Anthony, who’s second behind Kevin Durant in league scoring this year, explained that the ankle roll was not as severe as it could have been.

“I’m walking. I caught it before I rolled it all the way but it rolled pretty bad,” Anthony told the New York Post.

Anthony went up for an offensive rebound in the third quarter and landed awkwardly on a Magic player Tobias Harris, resulting in the rolled ankle. He received treatment on the bench and did not return to the game despite going to the locker room under his own power.

The Knicks and Thunder last met in April in a wild shootout game that saw the Knicks win behind Anthony’s 36 points and 12 rebounds. Durant chipped in 27 points. The win allowed Anthony to take the #1 scoring spot and eventually win the league scoring title.

****************

Much as I’d love to see another Melo-Durant duel, I’d rather our best player sit this one out and get healthy. He’s been playing way too many minutes as it is and trying to guard Durant on a bum ankle will do his health no favors. As we saw in last night’s Magic game, this team is hopeless without him, so risking a situation where he has to miss further time is not smart.

With that said, Melo is a baller and since he’s been here, he’s always loved these Christmas games. I give it a 70% chance that he ends up trying to play.

[youtube http://youtu.be/tWmBzI4Mrgo]

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

JRSmith_Westbrook

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.

Copeland

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.

Westbrook_Knicks

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.

Melo_Thunder

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.

[youtube http://youtu.be/koA1mxyxy-4]

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

JRSmith_Westbrook

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.

*************

Knicks Trade Ronnie Brewer to Thunder

Brewer

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.

************************************

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.