You may remember Lance Thomas, a Thunder training-camp invite who actually made the team when the injury situation got out of hand. Eventually he was dealt to the Knicks in the three-team deal that brought Dion Waiters to Oklahoma City, with the expectation that New York would waive him. They did. But they signed him to a 10-day contract three days later, and another one when that one ran out. What better way for him to demonstrate his value to the Knicks than to lead them to a victory on his previous team?
It didn’t work out quite that way. Thomas is still, after all, a second-string player. But he had 17 of the 31 points scored by the New York bench, his season high, and the Knicks were up nine halfway through the fourth quarter. This is normally Kevin Durant’s cue; but KD is still sidelined with that toe jam, or whatever it is, and a 7-0 run by Russell Westbrook in just under 60 seconds was followed by ten in a row from New York, and as the phrase goes, that’s all she wrote. OKC would come no closer than five after that, and the Knicks earned their third straight win at the Garden, 100-92.
There’s a brace of Telltale Statistics here. Consider Westbrook’s line — 13-30 shooting for 40 points — and the assist count: NYC 29, OKC 10. It’s not so much that Westbrook was trying to play hero ball, although there were obvious moments when he was, but that nobody else could shoot either. Reggie Jackson had 13 points; Serge Ibaka 10 and 10 rebounds; the rest didn’t matter much. (Dion Waiters, you should know, finished with eight.) Oh, and 5-22 on three-pointers, versus 8-17 for New York.
What’s more, the Knicks, among the sorriest rebounders in the Association, hauled in 51 of them tonight, against 47 for the ostensible league leader. They took six more shots, made six more shots. And Carmelo Anthony was being Carmelo Anthony, racking up 31 points and 10 rebounds. Jason Smith had the other Knicks double-double, 11 points and 11 boards. And Tim Hardaway, the only other Knick reserve to score, got the 14 points that Lance Thomas didn’t.
So it’s back to .500 again, and the Grizzlies waiting Saturday night. Pray for snow. Or something.
Update, 29 January: Lance Thomas will be signed by the Knicks for the rest of the season.