Great team to watch play, but I think I created this logo in NBA Live '99.

"We can build on this!" And Previewing Thunder-Knicks

With another edition of the calorie-burningest game preview in the business, here’s Will Woods.  When he finds out we don’t get paid for this, I am totally screwed…

One thing that has been a constant during this recent skid has been the energy.  Before last night they’d been giving up open shots because of poor communication, and the offense remains out of sorts, but I don’t see the effort wavering with this group.  The struggles of Amar’e Stoudemire, whom I criticized yesterday, certainly haven’t been due to lack of effort.  Really, Amar’e has set the standard of effort level to which his teammates seem to aspire.

The Knicks could’ve easily been blown out last night – and with Bonner and Hill in the lineup, they may well have been – but they maintained good energy and made the Spurs work to beat them.  The Knicks won the rebounding battle.  Toney Douglas got on the deck.  Ronny Turiaf got his garbage buckets.  Landry Fields once again did a fine job on Ginobili.  When you’re on the road against a superior opponent, you need to shoot the lights out; obviously the Knicks didn’t do that, but there’s still a lot to like about last night.

Other notes from last night:

  • What is Fields doing trying to post up and work in isolation?  He tried to fly solo and get a couple of foul calls and looked like me on the playground.  This isn’t what got him in the lineup in the first place.
  • Raymond Felton was just waving Tony Parker on through.
  • I mentioned last night that if DeJuan Blair was going to have a big game, he’d let us know in the first quarter.  Well, he started slow, and finished with 18 and 13.  So, yeah.
  • It may be time to call the coroner on Shawne Williams’ defense.  He’s been a pleasant surprise, sure, but is there any position he can guard?
  • Danilo Gallinari was 3-6 in the first quarter, then the team forgot about him, then they expected him to make shots in the fourth quarter when he hadn’t gotten a look from outside in an hour and a half.  Is it too much to ask for Gallo to be a consistent part of the offense?
  • The Knicks did a much better job of not relying too much on Amar’e at the elbow, and it appeared to be a conscious decision by Mike D’Antoni not to let the team fall into that habit.  I’ve written about this the past couple days, and it’s really a long time coming – at a certain point, you just have to admit that if you aren’t shooting well as a team, you aren’t going to win, and no amount of isolating your star player is going to help that.  You just have to let your team shoot its way out of it.
  • That said, I would prefer that Wilson Chandler’s jump shot from 2007 remain in 2007.
  • I know Toney Douglas (5-14 last night) continues to shoot poorly, but much of that has to do with his poor shot selection.  Douglas also missed numerous shots at the rim that could’ve raised his percentage, which is good news because at least he’s getting to the rim, unlike earlier this year.  I take his increased penetration as a sign that he’s feeling better; when this offense gets back on track, and Douglas doesn’t feel like he has to create everything himself, I’m optimistic he’ll be knocking down those open triples.

Projected Starters:

PG – Russell Westbrook: Felton couldn’t keep up with Tony Parker last night, so…yeah, not looking so good.

SG – Thabo Sefolosha: Will lock up Fields and throw away the key.

SF – Kevin Durant: With whom you’re familiar.  Has shot just 11-37 3PT in January, and just 33% overall this year.

PF – Jeff Green: Has trouble defending dominating post four’s, but then again Amar’e has struggled against smaller defenders of late.  Either way, shooting just 39% with 4.4 rebounds per game in January – had been averaging 16 and 6.

C – Nenad Krstic: Missed first Knicks tilt with injury, and will have trouble dealing with Turiaf’s energy at both ends.  Expect a lot of Serge Ibaka, whom the Knicks held to no points and eight rebounds last time around.

On Our Lineup: I would assume Sefolosha lines up on Fields, and if that’s the case I would love to see Chandler start in Fields’ place.  I know that isn’t one of our more common lineups – although reports it has been a successful one – but tonight the matchup is appropriate and would prevent Fields being switched onto…whomever the Thunder would want to switch him on to.

From the “If AR Weren’t Dead” Files: It’s games like this that I looked at in October and wondered how Anthony Randolph might disrupt the likes of Durant, Green and even Krstic and Ibaka.  Oh, well.

Thunder Trends: Durant’s three-point shooting issues are noted above, but another struggling sharpshooter is James Harden.  Harden is just 4 for his last 22 from downtown, and has hit a cold streak after reviving his season in the month of December.  The Thunder are the worst three-point shooting team in the league at just 32%, which has to be good news to a Knick defense that has been allowing open looks like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.

Ibaka’s Role: Ibaka’s recent play has led to clamor in OKC for him to start.  He fits the quick, athletic mold of the defenders who have troubled Stoudemire, but Scott Brooks has said he’s standing firm with his current starters.  Ibaka’s all-around game has improved this year and he’s been hot lately, hitting double figures in six of his last nine games.

Overall, I wouldn’t necessarily expect Scott Brooks to let his starters finish this game – the Thunder seem to play their crunch time lineups very much by ear.


Playing amateur psychologist for a moment, it seems that if ever there were a time to have a road back to back, it would be tonight.  The Knicks played well enough to win on many nights, and I’ll bet they’re happy they don’t have to wait long to get another shot at ending this streak.

Oklahoma City has lost two straight and is returning home after three days off, so they’ll be rested and ready to get back on the right track and take some revenge on the Knicks in the process.

Finally, a while ago I lamented that Amber Rose had recently traded in Amar’e for Wiz Khalifa.  Well, it seems Amar’e has gotten the ultimate revenge by shacking up with Ciara, who’s fresh off a fling with 50 Cent, who left her for Chelsea Handler of all people…I’m sure I could go on.  Anyway, I wish Amar’e could rebound that well on the court!  Although Amar’e-Ciara would be like the Frank Stallone of power couples, the idea of going from Kanye’s sloppy alien seconds to the likes of Ciara is enough to break any losing streak.

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