Thunder 95, Knicks 94
|Kurt Thomas, PF 5 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +2
Hit a jumper, goad Kendrick Perkins into making a fool of himself – terrific. Perfect. Throw in a cheeseburger and few wafers of methadone, that’s a hell of a night.
|Iman Shumpert, SF 27 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -11
Watching Shumpert dribble in transition is sadder than a fat dog in a stroller. When he’s pulling the string off his jumper – all three vertical inches of it – it’s downright tragic. Not much of merit in this one; save for Sefelosha, there were no advantageous match-ups on D, though he did manage to nuisance Westbrook into deferring on a couple of occassions. Meanwhile his ability to orchestrate something — anything — from the corner continues to be nonexistent.
|Tyson Chandler, C 35 MIN | 3-4 FG | 3-3 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 9 PTS | -6
Pedestrian, perhaps, though his absence late in the fourth registers as far more concerning. Some have suggested Chandler is nursing some kind of gimp, and hasn’t really been right for a few weeks now. Others chalk his too-late appearance to errant strategy on the part of Woodson, who may or may not have sought to match the Thunder’s small ball in kind. Judging by the three thunderous throw-downs (legs, check) and traffic-defying boards (surgically attached meat mittens that aren’t really hands, check), I’m more inclined to believe the latter…. Oh Jesus, is Paula Deen still over there? So creepy. She doesn’t even blink! What should I do, just stare at her? Is that the best thing to do? I feel like if I leave she’ll expose her fangs and hunt me down like those ghosts in Mario… Ugh.
|Raymond Felton, PG 38 MIN | 6-16 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 16 PTS | +2
When Russell Westbrook rolled his ankle towards the end of the first after tattooing us for 15 fast ones, I prayed MSG staff thought ahead to put a moonwalk or bungee chord in the visitors locker room – anything to keep the sonofabitch distracted. Turns out the tweak did that on its own; Russ never again displayed the same aplomb, never again buried the Knicks in transition on consecutive possessions, and generally fell into the one trap in which we’d hoped he’d ensnare himself: awful pull-up jumpers.
As for Felton himself, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: too many costly turnovers, too many contested – though sometimes necessary – long jumpers, and not enough non-transition penetration. Part of that has to do with the absurd minutes: 75 in two days is a lot for anyone, and with Prigs mysteriously glued to the bench, Felton has little recourse. At this rate, Felton’s going to be the next one to evaporate trying to catch an outlet pass.
|James White, SG 12 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -5
Prior to the game, the Vegas over/under on James white points was 2.5 (-150). Being the man of science that I am, I naturally put my house down as collateral on the under. I am now typing this from my car, which is freezing cold because I have no money in my bank account for gas.
|Kenyon Martin, PF 17 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -1
I recorded five fouls in 20 minutes during my rec league game last week and almost strangled the ref with his own whistle, so it was nice to see Kenyon keep his composure chalking six in a little over 17. He made the most of it, too: a couple impressive finishes at the rim, some hard (but clean) fouls that helped briefly destabilize Durant. This may be what we get out of him the rest of the way, and that’s OK, I suppose. But it’d be nice to see what he could do with a little more burn. As in, say, starting over Kurt Thomas. Just an example.
|Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 29 MIN | 5-16 FG | 6-6 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +6
For a guy who’s navigated a Homeric tome of Western gauntlets, STAT had some noticeable nerves about him – just seemed way too shaky early on. But then he sent Serge Ibaka to bleed out on the sidelines, and from thereon forward provided some of the game’s most memorable moments.
He had a bit of trouble early in the second half maneuvering amongst the Thunder’s canopy of limbs, though he managed to make himself useful on the offensive glass. Then, at the end of the third, STAT went completely apeshit. It started innocently enough, with a deft baby hook over Ibaka in the paint. It got marginally more violent the next trip down, as Stat Griffen-flushed right into Ibaka’s eyes (Ibaka’s face is just a skull at this point). Then he took a charge (I’m assuming accidentally.) Finally, the icing: a chase-down block of Derek Fisher so explosive that Fisher’s corpse vapor set off the smoke alarms. He mysteriously disappeared from the plans altogether during the game’s waning moments, a development I’m assuming Woodson will address just as soon as he picks his eyeballs off the floor.
|Steve Novak, SF 13 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -1
No one ever wants to hear, “Look, I’m not your father,” but Novak didn’t seem to hold it against Nick Collison. After missing his first shot (widen open) Steve-O drilled his second (hand down his throat) to help pull the Knicks within six early in the second. On his next attempt, Novak got KD to bite on a three, lifted as if intent on drawing contact, and just handed the ball to Sefelosha, who is both Swiss and decidedly not a Knick. Sadly, he only played sparingly down the stretch — yet another curio bullet about Woodson’s strange game resume.
|Jason Kidd, PG 27 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +2
Jason Kidd has shaving scars older than most of the Thunder roster, which automatically makes any appearance an eggshell affair. The rotational strategy – and Russ’s aforementioned ankle tweak – was enough to keep Kidd from marking his most obvious mismatch. He had a few chances to further bury OKC during our second half mini-runs, but missed horribly, because that’s what Jason Kidd does these days. Still, for those ten rebounds we thank God, which is a thing Jason Kidd invented.
|J.R. Smith, SG 36 MIN | 14-29 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 36 PTS | +7
Had Melo been healthy, we might’ve relied on J.R. to assume a 6-39 in exchange for keeping the Thunder core out deep into the Manhattan night. As it was, we were treated to a first half miniature of Wednesday’s schizo performance: a slew of early misses, followed by buckets on buckets on buckets and a legit halftime ballgame. J.R. wasn’t simply putting his hand in the cookie jar; he ate it, glass and all, and spit out the chocolate chips because he’s a fucking gangster.
Earl picked up right where he left off to start the second, blitzing the Thunder off dribble and catch alike, getting his hands in passing lanes – he was everywhere, his shot Sea World wet. Sadly, the mean came calling, cruel Cassandra that she is. It was totally predictable that the offense would grow stagnant and hero-centric down the stretch, and for that we really can’t blame His Clubness. Not even that awful final possession, which was so criminally lacking in creativity that not even J.R. could’ve drawn it up.
As I write this, J.R. is no doubt en route via Hummer, and also inside a Hummer, to some classy Midtown establishment, where he’ll regale new friends and lock down goddess digits with intrepid tales of bringing his team back and hitting a game-winning, buzzer beating bucket from the left baseline — his scarred comrades inundating him with hugs, love, and incredibly awkward white people dances with way too many crotch thrusts. And he won’t technically be lying.
Five Things We Saw
- If Miami’s transition offense is the Flying Death Machine, Oklahoma City’s might be the Flying Torture Condor; when it strikes, the pain is profound, prolonged, and seems to last an eternity, even when it’s happening so goddam fast. That looked to be precisely the program in the early going, with Durant and Westbrook keying an 8-0 blitz that could’ve easily choked us out. The Knicks did a much better job of cheating back and protecting the ball as the game wore on, however, eventually pulling almost even in transition points and actually winning the turnover battle.
- For once, the Knicks “switch first, second, third, and I’m going to cut myself” ethos paid some weirdly positive dividends, with both Durant and Westbrook falling to their own respective brand of temptation – Westbrook with over-dribbling at the top of the key and letting loose some bullshit, and Durant eating up the shot clock trying to back down smaller defenders. Each made some big time shots, for sure, but given the mismatches available (Tyson on Russ and James White – pants completely full of poop – on Durant), it could’ve been a hell of a lot worse.
- Melo’s mercurial persona and play aside, it’s obvious what his absence means in terms of not only offensive execution, but flow and consistency as well. Melo is the constant around which the rest of the bodies orbit; even when he’s camping out at the right elbow, his range of movement — devastating though it may be — is fixed enough to allow for proper spacing, even if that doesn’t always happen with the greatest of consistency. But when you’re forced to pivot your offense around J.R. Smith, whose pinballing about the court is made all the more problematic by the fact that he’s dribbling the ball most of the time, other guys have to react more on the fly. It’s the difference between jamming with an outstanding rhythm guitarist and a very good, very flawed jazz musician who’s just all over the place. Related: I quit guitar after one week.
- Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson kind of killed us, and that is unfathomably depressing.
- This was mentioned briefly in the Tyson capsule, and was something picked up on pretty much wholesale, but it bears further mention: The decision to hold Tyson out until the last minute is one I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around. I won’t bother seeking out whether any of the beat writers managed to bludgeon and answer out of him, but I can’t believe Woodson’s explanation can amount to merely meeting small with small. The Thunder are not going to Serge Ibaka in crunch time, ever. Ever. Ever. And even if everyone in the joint knows who you’re going to (psychoitc clown back-tat guy), Chandler’s presence hints at the possibility of a late-game pick and roll where Amare’s — sad to say — lately hasn’t. I get going small in certain situations. This just wasn’t one of them.
- The Knicks didn’t need a perfect game tonight. They needed a near-perfect game from one player, and serviceable play from everyone else. And they damn near got exactly that. No shame in this one – not even a little bit. But shame and regret are two different things. Fact is, we could’ve stolen it; could’ve sealed it up nice and tight with one more bucket or a few less fouls. The what-if game never stopped a loss or sparked a win streak, I know. Unless, of course, the “what if” concerns a matter of strategy, and not just fortune. There were plenty of the former on this night, some of which Woodson has to address. We have one more at home (Saturday against the Yazz) before the West Coast road trip from Hell. Let’s make it count.
Beyond his work for KnickerBlogger, Jim is a contributor to the New York Times Off the Dribble NBA blog, ESPN.com, and The Classical. He is currently working on a biography of Robert Silverman, titled "Clownin' and Astoundin.'" Follow him on Twitter @JPCavan.