Photo via Knicksnow.com
NY Knicks (37-21) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (44-16)
8PM/ET on TNT
Last night I didn’t watch the Knicks game against the Detroit Pistons with the same level of intensity I’m accustomed. However, I listened as I worked and am aware that it was another rather sloppy performance by my Knickerbockers. But hey, a win is a win! Right? Wrong. The Knicks have a tough, tough schedule ahead, and an even tighter playoff race as they try to hold onto the second seed. Currently, five games separate the second seed, NY Knicks, from the seventh seed, Boston Celtics. If the Knicks start to drop games, they will quickly tumble in the standings.
Looking ahead to tonight’s game, Carmelo Anthony is still listed as questionable. Coach Woodson said he’s allowing Melo to determine his game time readiness. *blank stare*
While Melo’s availability is of concern and a game changer, generally speaking, the Knicks better not enter The Garden carrying the baggage of last night’s game. Everyone has off nights but twenty-one turnovers? That’s completely unacceptable, especially when the Knicks have led the league with a season-low turnover average all season. Also, the Knicks have a habit of getting off to a slow start. Maybe that’s attributable to the team relying heavily upon bench scoring. Regardless, the Knicks must take command early in the game, especially because they have the advantage of the home crowd. Although we’re loyal to a fault, if Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook start to assert themselves early on, the Garden will not be too friendly to the Knicks.
Selfishly, I hope Melo plays because I was looking forward to Melo and Durant competing against each other. Tonight, we have the NBA’s two top and most pure scorers in the game potentially going at each other. While Durant is a more efficient scorer, 64.5% compared to Melo’s 55.9%, Melo will undoubtedly raise his game, something he’s prone to do when facing off against the league’s most elite competitors. Melo, the game needs this tonight. Please play.
Durant is going to get his 30+ points, that’s a given. But the biggest question for me is, who’s going to stop Westbrook? Felton? Kidd? Smith? I don’t like any of those options. Maybe Iman Shumpert will switch off Thabo Sefalosha and give it a shot. And better yet, who’s going to defend against the OKC pick-n-roll? I repeat, I don’t like any of our options.
Amar’e Stoudemire has been putting in work lately. Thanks to his new beastly post moves, over the past five games, he’s shooting 69% from the field. And in the last two games alone, he’s averaging 22 points. If we stand any chance against OKC, we’ll need him to continue to perform at this level and stay aggressive on the boards, especially if Melo sits out.
The X factor for OKC is the other K-Mart, Kevin Martin. If he catches fire from the three-point line, the Knicks may have a problem on their hands. They’re already facing a tough assignment with Durant and Westbrook, so they better do their best to guard the perimeter so we don’t get rained on from three-point land.
Offensively, OKC is more potent. Durant and Westbrook are both within the Top 10 scorers in the league. The Knicks have enough threats to compete, but it’s no telling which team will show up from night to night. Assuming Melo doesn’t play, the Knicks will have to keep their turnovers down and get exceptional output from the bench, anything less and it’s a wrap.
I think it’ll be a close high-scoring game, but ultimately I don’t think the Knicks will have enough to beat OKC. Knicks lose.
Saturday, March 9: Knicks vs Utah Jazz @ 7:30PM/ET on MSG