INTEGRIS Game Day Report: Thunder vs. New York Knicks – Feb. 15, 2017

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

Broadcast Information

  • Tip-off: 8:30 p.m. CT
  • Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
  • Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

Tonight will be the Thunder’s 57th game of the regular season, with just 25 remaining on the schedule after this weekend’s All-Star festivities in New Orleans. After a string of two losses in a row, the Thunder recognizes that this game at Chesapeake Energy Arena against the New York Knicks is an incredible opportunity to close out the “first half” of the NBA season on the right foot.

A win tonight would be the Thunder’s 32nd this season, putting the team seven games above .500 for the season. In order to do that, however, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s team has to right some wrongs from the past few games, in particular starting out quarters at a higher level.

“They’re a very talented team and we have to come out playing strong for 48 minutes. We can’t have lapses we’ve been having lately in games,” rookie forward Domas Sabonis said. “We just have to come out and concentrate at a higher level. Especially at halftime, coming into the third quarter, we have to come out stronger.”

Game Day: Russell Westbrook - 2/15/17

“We need to set a tone for the first quarter. When we get to the third quarter we’ll figure that out,” Westbrook chuckled, referencing the Thunder’s rough start to the loss to the Washington Wizards. “We need to start the game off the right way, ready to play.”

The Thunder took care of business against the Knicks in the teams’ first meeting of the season up at Madison Square Garden, but New York is coming off of a victory over the San Antonio Spurs and is playing both at a higher level and with alternate personnel from the first matchup. For example, Willy Hernangomez has been at the center spot while Joakim Noah is on the mend.

“They’re a completely different team from the last time we played,” rookie guard Alex Abrines noted. “Hernangomez is playing at a really high level.”

Abrines Added to Rising Stars Challenge World Team

The Thunder got some exciting news on Wednesday morning when the NBA announced that due to an injury to Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, rookie Thunder guard Alex Abrines will be filling in to represent the World team at the Rising Stars Challenge in New Orleans at All-Star Weekend. Originally, Abrines had plans with his fiancée to get some much-needed rest and relaxation in the Bahamas for the break, but was able to change his plans at the last minute to delay the vacation by a couple days.

“I was surprised. My first reaction was, ‘How can I tell my fiancée?’” Abrines laughed. “I was really happy. It’s a great honor for me.”

Abrines will be joining his rookie teammate Domas Sabonis in the game, giving the two youngsters a chance to compete against some of the highest level first and second year NBA stars. For these two, who knew each other growing up in Spain, it will be a wonderful experience to share together.

“That’s amazing, especially for him and Domas to be able to do that together,” said Westbrook, who competed in the contest years ago. “That’s an amazing experience. I’m happy for him and his family.”

Alex Abrines on All-Star Weekend