The Knicks will look to get back on track as they finish a mini two game road trip with the high flying Oklahoma City Thunder. This will be the only meeting between the two teams due to the condensed schedule. They split the season series last year, with each team protecting their home court.
The Lowdown – Oklahoma City is currently riding a five game winning streak, increasing their record to a staggering 10-2 and sit atop the Western Conference. It will be the Thunder’s first contest since Wednesday night. They are led by silky smooth Kevin Durant, who already owns two scoring titles at the age of 23. The 6’9 sharp shooter embodies a 53.9 eFG%. Durant worked on improving his post up skills in the offseason, broadening his already potent offensive game.
Russell Westbrook is a creator, a facilitator, and a penetrator. Westbrook is a freak athlete with lightning quick speed.
The depth of the Thunder allows the head coach Scott Brooks the luxury of playing a 9-10 man rotation. Oklahoma City has two elite talents in the starting lineup, and sixth man of the year candidate James Harden with his 63.4 TS% waiting in the wings. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins anchor the defense. The two provide physical post defense and the knack for blocking or altering shots at the rim.
The Knicks come off what some would argue is their worst performance of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies, which saw their record drop to 6-5. They lost Carmelo Anthony early in the 3rd quarter due to his second injury of the night. ‘Melo is a one man MASH unit with a sprained left wrist and a sprained right ankle. He did not practice yesterday and is listed as day-to-day for the Thunder game. If he is unable to play, the Knicks confirmed Bill Walker will start in his place. The Thunder frequently set off ball screens to try and free Durant, as well as attempting create opportunities for their players at the rim. The Knick defenders will need to be fully aware of their counterparts’ location, as OKC will make them pay for nearly every ball watching lapse.
Matchup to Watch – Iman Shumpert vs. Russell Westbrook I’m beyond ecstatic to watch these two go at it. Both endure similar attributes with speed and athleticism. Shump will look to play a better floor game, as he admitted via twitter that his last game wasn’t his best display against the Grizzlies.
X-Factor – Amar’e Stoudemire Chances are there will be no Carmelo Anthony, so it is back to the pre-Melo mindset for Amar’e. He will have free reign to do as he pleases without worrying about Anthony holding the ball. Stoudemire will need to carry the offensive load. We will all get a look at how this offense flows without Melo for an entire game.
Probable Starters (Thunder)
PG – Russell Westbrook
SG – Thabo Sefolosha
SF – Kevin Durant
PF – Serge Ibaka
C – Kendrick Perkins
Probable Starters (Knicks)
PG – Iman Shumpert
SG – Landry Fields
SF – Bill Walker
PF – Amar’e Stoudemire
C – Tyson Chandler