Game Recap: Thunder 97, Knicks 119

A strong start for the Thunder cooled off at the hands of the number one defense in the league. OKC worked to recapture its strong offensive start, but it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the deficit. Despite the loss, playing without several key players allowed the Thunder to explore its roster and take a look at different lineups.

Game Flow

Before the start of Saturday’s matinee, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault told the media that he and his team would leave the arena having learned something about the group. Playing without starters Darius Bazley (shoulder contusion) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (quad contusion), the Thunder’s starting lineup consisted of Isaiah Roby and Aleksej Pokuševski to play alongside Théo Maledon, Al Horford and Lu Dort. It would be an opportunity for the Thunder to explore its roster in various lineups throughout the game.

Early on, it was Lu Dort who showed a different side to his game on Saturday. The second-year guard spent more time on the ball than usual and put up an early eight points with is aggressive drives to the rim and his ability to draw contact. By the end of the night, Dort finished with 14 points, but posted a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line – a season high in attempts and makes.

“Obviously, [Dort] slides into a complimentary role when we're playing our full deck there with Shai, but tonight allowed him to really play with the ball and make plays,” said Daigneault. “He drew a lot of contact, made plays for his teammates and I thought he made really good reads.”

The early boost by Dort helped lift the Thunder to an early 11-point lead. The Thunder played to its identity on the offensive end moving the ball with pace and hunting paint touches on each possession. In fact, the Thunder made it first 11 shots that it attempted in the paint which included a pair of and ones.

Leading the charge in the paint was Thunder big man Al Horford who finished the night a perfect 5-for-5 in shots from inside the lane and led the Thunder with 16 points. Horford, Kenrich Williams and Isaiah Roby all combined for 30 of the Thunder’s 52 points in the paint with 10 paint points each.

Decisive Moments

After keeping the Knicks offense at bay throughout the first frame, New York caught its stride in the next two. In quarters two and three, the Knicks outscored OKC 66-47. After the first quarter, the intensity and defensive physicality of the Knicks ramped up to force Thunder turnovers. Full court pressure and high pick-up points on defense by the Knicks fed its momentum to take control of the ball game through the second and third frames.

The Thunder worked on several occasions to cut into the lead and retake control by matching New York’s physicality, but untimely turnovers and offensive rebounds eliminated the Thunder’s ability to overcome the double-digit lead built up by New York in the second half. The Thunder finished the night having given up 18 points off of turnovers and another 16 on second chances.

“I think that we came out of the gates pretty strong in the first quarter, but we've got to just be able to continue to carry that through the whole entire game and never let our guard down," said Thunder forward Isaiah Roby.

“They're a good defense, so your margin for error against them is small and that's why they’re a good team,” said Daigneault.

Play of the Game

The Thunder’s strong first quarter was capped with an exclamation point in the final play. As the clock wound down to close the opening quarter, the Thunder held the ball for the last shot. Coach Daigneault orchestrated from the sidelines, preparing for his group to execute when the clock hit eight seconds – they only needed seven.

The aggressive New York defense tried to trap the Thunder to cause disruption on the play. However, Ty Jerome remained poised with the ball in his hands and scanned the floor for an option. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Moses Brown spotted up on the baseline ready for a pass. Jerome zipped the ball to Brown who immediately caught the attention of two Knicks defenders. The 7-foot center patiently pump faked the defenders out of the way which allowed for an uncontested one-handed slam.

Stat of the Night88

Both the Knicks and the Thunder received massive contributions from their second units in the absence of several key players on the floor. As a result, the two reserve units combined for 88 points on the night. New York’s bench was headlined by rookie Immanuel Quickley who posted 21 points on 9-of-16 from the field. His constant barrage of midrange floaters provided a steady flow of offense for the Knicks throughout the night.

For the Thunder, it was Kenrich Williams who led the way with 13 points off the bench, but he was joined by Justin Jackson and Ty Jerome as reserves who finished in double-figures. Moses Brown nearly made the list with nine points of his own.

“They had to step up,” said Dort. “When we’re missing guys on the floor, the second unit just gotta step up. They did a good job just playing as a team and moving the ball.”

Quotes of the NightIsaiah Roby

“We were still competing on both sides of the floor. Guys came in ready to go and tonight just wasn't our night as far as knocking down shots.”-Isaiah Roby “I thought tonight they turned it up at the half and we kind of took a step back, but tomorrow hopefully we can come out the whole 48 minutes and play our basketball.”

–Kenrich Williams

Looking Ahead

It’s a quick turnaround for the Thunder as it finishes out the weekend by hosting the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday for another 1 p.m. tip off. After wrapping up a jam-packed weekend, the Thunder will have the day off on Monday before hitting the road for a matchup on the East Coast to take on the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.