Middle Kingdom Previews - Thunder, Wizards

USA TODAY Sports

Good Knicks teams are fun to watch...who knew!?!

Easter is long since over, all the Cadbury Cream Eggs are gone, and the only thing we have left to live for is the Knicks' winning streak. They'll put the streak on the line (and then some) today when they play Thabo Sefolosha and his anonymous crew in the Oklahoma Territories.

(Editor's Note: Oklahoma is a state now)

(Joe's Note: Oh, word? I have been gone a long time!)

To the previews!

Sun., April 7 - Oklahoma City Thunder

Chinese name: 雷霆 (lei-ting) Lit. "thunderbolt"

I know the Thunder are supposed to be the one contender a Knicks fan could possibly stomach, but I gotta tell you, they really got under my skin last month at the Garden. That loss was mighty tough to swallow...losing by a single point when the other team takes 15 more free throws usually is. I get it, refs - the Knicks are mainly a jump-shooting team, and the Thunder average more free throws per field goal attempt than any other team in the league. But a 29-14 advantage for the Thunder? When the Knicks were already short their best player? That's straight-up highway robbery.

And might I remind you...all of this happened at a Knicks home game. Since this game will be played in OKC, and since Amar'e Stoudemire is still out (6 FTA last game), I think we can assume at least a 20-free throw deficit before tip-off. In an unrelated note, the Thunder are 33-5 at home this season.

Still, all of the above might not matter one bit...the Knicks are playing that well, particularly one Carmelo "I Don't Get Out of Bed For Less Than 40 Points" Anthony. I'm excited about the Carmelo Anthony-Kevin Durant match-up, but not for the reasons you might expect. You're about to hear a whole lot of talk in the media about how Melo is no Kevin Durant, and I for one welcome it, because anything beats having to hear one more time how Melo is no Lebron James. It's getting a little stale, to tell you the truth. Let's see if I can trace the media narrative arc of Melo's season thus far:

  • Preseason: Sure, Melo is coming off a great performance in the Olympics, but NOT LEBRON NOT LEBRON NOT LEBRON!
  • First Two Months: Melo plays at an MVP level, Knicks look like legitimate contenders. Still not Lebron, but not much to complain about here.
  • Christmas to Early March: Melo hurts his knee, plays through the pain for months while not revealing the extent of his injury. His play slips noticeably, as does the Knicks' overall performance. Same ol' Melo, same ol' Knicks, amiright?
  • March 4: Melo leaves a game against the Cavs. We find out that he's been hiding an injury for months, playing through the pain, and we're supposed to be angry because...I forget. Because he didn't tell us? Because he got injured in the first place? Because Jordan played better in the Finals with the flu than Melo did for two months with a knee injury? I'm guessing all of the above.
  • March 11 - 13: Melo comes back from injury way too early, can't help the Knicks at all as they're blown out in two straight games. Now we're really supposed to be pissed!
  • March 14 - 19: Melo sits out. The Knicks lose a few more games. Who's to blame? Melo!
  • March 20 - Present: Melo comes back, takes a few games to find his footing, and then proceeds to systematically annihilate the league. Sure, it seems nice in theory, but it's still terrible, because it only serves to remind us how not Lebron he is.

How bout a nice change of pace, media? It's not like Melo is married to the "not Lebron" narrative, so why not let him play the field a bit. After all, there are so many player out there that Melo isn't - Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Cliff Paul, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lil' Bow Wow's character in "Like Mike." Carmelo Anthony is literally none of those people. He just might be this year's scoring champion, though, and that would be pretty cool.

Tues., April 9 - Washington Wizards

Chinese name: 奇才 (qi-cai) Lit. "rare talent"

The Wizards just did the Knicks a solid, crushing the Pacers by 19 and securing the Knicks' grip on the 2-seed. Of course, that only works so long as the Wiz don't turn right around three days later and do the same thing to the Knicks themselves.

Not enough is being made about Washington's inspiration campaign of anti-tanking. This team was 4-28 in early Janurary, 11-35 in early February, and 18-12 since. They actually have an outside shot of overtaking the 76ers for ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Single digits, bitches!

I wonder how Wiz management is taking this late-season, way-too-late-for-the-playoffs renaissance. This isn't one of those situations we Knicks fans are used to from the Isiah years, where it didn't matter whether the team finished ninth or 15th because Zeke sent our first-rounder and Dolan's credit card numbers to some Nigerian prince he met online. The Wizards actually have their pick. I wish I could have been in the locker room when GM Ernie Grunfeld went to the players and asked them to tank.

Grunfeld: "Hey guys, I know this is never an easy conversation to have. I appreciate all the work you've done recently...really, I do. But we're not going to the playoffs. How bout you guys ease off the gas a little, improve our chances in the lottery. I promise I'll draft a quality player for next year's playoff push."

Emeka Okafor: "Forget you, Grunfeld! You expect us to lie down and lose for you...and for what? So you waste another high draft pick on some loser like Jan Vesely."

Jan Vesely: "C'mon, bro...I'm standing right here."

Nene: "YOU'LL SPEAK WHEN SPOKEN TO, VESELY! We're not losing for you, Grunfeld. In fact, I say we give you the worst draft pick of any Eastern Conference lottery team. THE WIZARDS ARE GOING TO NINTH PLACE!"

Wizards Players, In Unison: "NINTH PLACE! NINTH PLACE! NINTH PLACE!"

It's no surprise that this surge coincided with the return of John Wall, who's playing the best ball of his career. You'll never believe this, but at the same time he's playing so well, he's making noise for a contract extension. What a coinkydink!

Normally, I'd be wary of handing out big-money deals to injury-prone players who play their absolute best during a contract push...which is probably why James Dolan still hasn't let me run the Knicks. Still, John Wall is the kind of athletic guard who usually kills the Knicks. Toss in the lust for an extension and you get an equation like this:

(Speed + Athleticism) * Contract Push = OH SHIT!

The Knicks can't afford to mess around here, and neither can Knicks fans. I couldn't help but notice that the one Wizards game the Knicks lost just so happens to be the one game Seth saw in person. Now, I don't know whether or not Seth plans to go to the Garden on Tuesday, but I say it's better to be safe than sorry. So I'm calling on any and all P&T'ers in the New York area to go to Seth's house and put him out of action for the duration of the game. I'm not saying kill him...just incapacitate him in some way. Here's a useful site:

http://www.beststungun.com

They've got blast knuckles, the Tornado Defense System (if it'll stop a tornado, it should stop Seth), even pink stun guns for the ladies. One bit of advice: don't hit Seth with anything less than 800,000 volts. It's almost playoff time, people, time to bring your A game.

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