This looked like a Battle of the Also-Rans until word came down that Carmelo Anthony was going to miss another game with a back ailment, and that Russell Westbrook would actually be back. “Holy crap,” thought Loud City, “we might win this one in a walk.” More of a gallop, really, and all you need to know is the lineup with four minutes left: Ish Smith, Anthony Morrow, Jeremy Lamb, Lance Thomas and Grant Jerrett. Repeat: Grant Jerrett. Number Seven spent all of last year in the D-League, and the first 16 games of this season glued to the Thunder bench. Tonight, Jerrett got three points on a single trey (out of five tries), an assist, and a rebound in eight and a half minutes, a luxury made possible by the enormous margin the Thunder enjoyed en route to a 105-78 win over the Knicks.
And that win, in no small part, was made possible by Westbrook, who in just under 24 minutes rolled up 32 points, seven rebounds, eight dimes, and wasn’t needed at all in the fourth. Yeah, he had that glove thing on his hand. Didn’t seem to bother him in the least. Reggie Jackson, back in his sixth-man role — though there were moments when both Jackson and Westbrook were on the floor — performed creditably, with 10 points, six boards and four assists. And Jeremy Lamb had something of a hot hand, leading the bench with 13 points. Serge Ibaka kicked in 14; Steven Adams managed six, but retrieved a career-high 13 rebounds. That word “rebounds” seems to be coming up a lot, but it ought to: the Thunder owned these boards, 57-33.
These Knicks are known better, as it happens, not for their rebounding, but for their three-point prowess, so far this season the best in the league. The Thunder response was not to let them get any, and indeed New York scored only twice from beyond the arc, once in the third quarter, once in the fourth, despite putting up 19 tries. (One of those was scored by the comparatively diminutive Shane Larkin, five-eleven, whom I assume no one figured would need blocking at that distance.) None of the Knick starters made double figures, though both Amar’e Stoudemire (20) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) did so from the bench. “A work in progress,” said radio guy Matt Pinto.
So this homestand ends on an upbeat note, 2-2. Four games on the road follow: at New Orleans on Tuesday, at Philadelphia Friday, at Detroit Sunday, and at Milwaukee the following Tuesday. Almost certainly Kevin Durant — remember him? — will be back for some or all of these.