Knicks Quiet Thunder in New York City
Oklahoma City lost to the New York Knicks, 112-98, at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
The much-anticipated matchup between the league’s top two scorer’s, Kevin Durant (27.4 ppg) and Amar’e Stoudemire (26.5 ppg), featured strong stats from both players. It was Stoudemire’s teammates, however, who helped put his team over the top.
“Everyone knows Amar’e is a talented player, one of the best players in the league,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “Their starting five though, they’re good. This is a very good team.”
Stoudemire was tops for the Knicks with 23 points and five of his teammates finished in double figures. Durant led all scorers, though, with 26 points, while Russell Westbrook added 23.
“After our last game it was all about us and what we can do better,” said Knicks guard Landry Fields. “Going out there we focused on us and took care of it.”
The Thunder (20-10) pulled ahead by eight points in the second quarter before its offense began to slow. As the clock reached zero heading into halftime, the Knicks (17-12) had come back to build a 63-55 lead. By the end of the third, the Knicks were up 12 – their lead at one point grew to 20. Brooks credited the Knicks' passing skills as one of the primary reasons behind their success.
“That was as well as a passing first half as I’ve seen all year against us,” Brooks said.
While the Knicks were scoring off those well-placed passes, the Thunder had trouble in that department. Durant started the game off with 13 first-quarter points, but put down just 13 the rest of the way. A 39.2 percent field goal percentage for Oklahoma City also didn’t help.
“We’re a tough team on the road,” said Durant. “We usually bounce back from a tough run, but tonight we just weren’t able to make shots.”
MSG, which is known as “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” can be an intimidating atmosphere for any player, especially the younger ones. With an average age of 24.5, the Thunder roster is no exception. Brooks, however, says his team hasn’t shown any signs of being awe struck.
“I haven’t sensed that they’ve ever been intimidated,” said Brooks. “Our guys are fired up. They just love to play basketball.”
Brooks is quite familiar with The Garden, having spent one of his 10 NBA seasons wearing the Knicks uniform. In 38 games, Brooks was used off the bench by then-coach Jeff Van Gundy.
“This organization treats players as well as anyone in the league,” Brooks said of New York. “I was the last guy on the team and they treated me like I was a starter.”
Knicks Coach Mike D’Antoni, too, has ties to the Thunder. This summer, D’Antoni was an assistant on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff with the USA Basketball National Team, which featured Durant and Westbrook.
“I picked up that they’re really good,” D’Antoni joked prior to the game. “The only thing I picked up as a coach is that they’re great people to be around and that bodes well for Oklahoma City.”
Oklahoma City has had their way with the Knicks over the years. In eight previous meetings dating back to the 2005-06 season, the team has come out on top six times, including a 121-118 overtime victory at MSG on Feb. 20, their last meeting in New York. Durant dropped a game-high 36 points and Westbrook added 31 and 10 assists in that contest.
The Thunder now rolls back to Oklahoma for a Christmas Night game against the Denver Nuggets.
"We just got to make sure we come back next game and correct (tonight's) mistakes," said Thunder forward Jeff Green.