From the beginning at Madison Square Garden, there were exactly two factors that made a difference:
- Carmelo Anthony always finds a way to beat the Thunder;
- Carmelo Anthony was out with an ankle injury.
So the only real question turned out to be “How badly would the Knicks be thrashed on national television?” The answer was “Badly enough”; OKC led by six after one, by 14 at the half, by 20 after 3, and didn’t bother to bring out the starters for the fourth en route to a 123-94 rout.
With ‘Melo, Raymond Felton and even Metta World Peace sidelined, the most interesting story for the Knicks involved a couple of reserves: Tim Hardaway Jr., a rookie trying to prove himself worthy, and Amar’e Stoudemire, a veteran trying to prove himself still worthy. Both of them acquitted themselves well today, Hardaway tying his career high with 21 points and Stoudemire dropping in 22 on a mere 16 shots. (Sporadic sharpshooter J. R. Smith had 20, but it took him 22 shots, and he was basically done halfway through the third.) What the Knicks don’t do, mostly, is rebound: Andrea Bargnani, who started at power forward, and Stoudemire, who spelled him at the four, had a total of four between them. And Chris Smith, J. R.’s younger brother, made his first NBA appearance in the last sixty seconds.
The OKC starters were their usual shiny selves, with Kevin Durant knocking down 29 points on 16 shots and Russell Westbrook into triple-double territory in the third quarter: 14 points, ten assists, 13 rebounds. Serge Ibaka, seeing no need to play defense, collected the ball at the basket and stuffed it in, with 24 points on a pretty efficient 10-14. As usual, the bench was led by Reggie Jackson (18) and Jeremy Lamb (13), and not as usual, the Thunder was hitting for distance, nailing 13 of 24 treys. (The Knicks were 6-23.)
Still, I have to wonder, with the Knicks and their crosstown rivals the Nets both floundering at 9-19, if maybe Jason Kidd ought to come over from Brooklyn, and Mike Woodson might be happier working for, well, anybody other than James Dolan.
Next Thunder outing: Friday, against the Charlotte Soon-To-Be-Former Bobcats.