The difference in Wednesday’s game came down to one player. And Russell Westbrook doesn’t play for the Knicks.
The Thunder point guard filled up the boxscore in the 116-105 victory over New York, finishing with 38 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists while sending the Knicks into the All-Star break reeling.
“He’s an All-Star for a reason and he had a pretty amazing game today,” said Kristaps Porzingis, who battled a stomach illness Wednesday and threw up in the bathroom during the third quarter. “He started slow and once he gets in rhythm he’s hard to stop. We should have done some things differently with him but he as I said, he hit some big 3s. Once he’s doing all that, he’s really hard to stop.”
Amazingly, it wasn’t the most impressive triple-double recorded on the Knicks this season considering James Harden did it while scoring 53 points on New Year’s Eve.
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But the Knicks aren’t good at defense. So they’re susceptible to such outbursts.
“We can’t have very many breakdowns. There were a couple breakdowns, we’re controlling him pretty decently for a while. We basically showed a wall and he was throwing out to the other guys and they weren’t making the shots early. Then I felt there was too much space,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He got around our guys. When he gets around you and has a full head of steam it’s almost like you have to foul him - he’s going to dunk it or lay it in. Maybe we got a little tired.”
Wednesday night was the Knicks’ (23-34) seventh loss in their last nine games, and a big letdown following Sunday’s victory over the Spurs. New York hasn’t won back-to-back games since Dec. 22.
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The Knicks started off well enough in OKC, with Carmelo Anthony on fire just minutes after he was announced as an injury replacement on the All-Star team. The 32-year-old scored 19 points in the first quarter on 7-of-8 shooting, carrying the Knicks to a 16-point advantage. But the good vibes were short-lived. Anthony went cold and scored one point in the second quarter, finishing with 30 points. The Thunder (32-25) capped the half on a 30-11 run, led by 2 at the break, and never trailed again while riding Westbrook.
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Kristaps Porzingis continued his slump, although had an excuse with the stomach ailment from over two weeks ago resurfacing.
“I don’t know what’s wrong, I was pissed,” Porzingis said. “I couldn’t even stretch at one point in the game. It was killing me. It is what it is, I tried to fight through it and help the team but it was tough.”
He’s not concerned about missing the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday in New Orleans.
“Probably I’ll go to the bathroom and I’ll be fine,” he said.
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The Knicks were hoping their strong defensive effort against San Antonio would carryover in Oklahoma City. Instead, they allowed the Thunder to hit 12 of their 23 3-point attempts and allowed Westbrook to do whatever he wanted.
“It’s not really that I need a break—more mentally than physically, maybe,” Porzingis said. “And it has been a tough season so far for us, but we’re trying to stay together, keep fighting and just trying to do the right thing, give the fans watchable games and enjoy the game ourselves.”Send a Letter to the Editor