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Thunder 112, Knicks 103: 'Keep calm'

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The Knicks got smacked around by OKC.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks missed another chance to move above .500, falling 112-103 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This loss was more annoying than your average Knick loss, because the Knicks have inspired hope for the first time in three years, and so the hunger grows. New York looked terrific in the early going, then lost it, and once they lost it, it was gone. There was the requisite faux stirring comeback, ended by the requisite dagger courtesy of Anthony Freaking Roberson (more on him later).

After going up as much as 11 in the first, the Knicks looked to be slinging some of that home cooking they been dishing out of late in remaking Madison Square Garden a homecourt advantage. They were moving the ball, drawing fouls, and making OKC look like Russell Westbrook and some wannabe Jordanaires. Then, seemingly innocently, Brandon Jennings and Justin Holiday committed dumb perimeter fouls in the last two minutes. The Thunder had been unable to get going from the field but got some free throws and got going.

Anthony Morrow and Enes Kanter KILLED New York, scoring nearly half the Thunder’s first-half points and mitigating the early absence of a foul-troubled Westbrook. The Knicks shooting got worse and worse and they didn’t defend, but they were only down three at the half because they kept getting to the foul line in what feels like the least Knicks-y sentence ever. They also didn’t turn the ball over, which helped. What hurt was that despite the first-half fouls, Westbrook is Win Shares personified and had a triple double 79 seconds into the second half, finding Victor Oladipo for a breakaway dunk that led Jeff Hornacek to call time.

Early in the fourth, a Morrow three pushed OKC’s lead to double-digits. Derrick Rose played his best game as a Knick and kept them coming back. Kristaps Porzingis did many a thing. Carmelo Anthony had his worst game of the year, outplayed by Anthony Freaking Roberson and missing 12 of his last 13 shots, airballing his last look. That, the inability to keep the Thunder off the offensive glass, and pure unadulterated Westbrook were too much to overcome. Even as he cooled off late, the Thunder star just reverted to that NBA thing where guys decide they’re going to the basket and plowing into any humans between them and the basket ‘cuz they know they’ll get the call, which they do and he did. The Knicks were within two with four minutes left, but Rose couldn’t come through to tie it after getting in the lane, then Roberson hit a corner three, his fourth field goal (same number as Melo on 11 fewer attempts). Dagger.

Notes:

  • Rose versus Westbrook met the hype. When’s the last time the Knicks had a hyped point guard matchup?
  • Rose had three assists in the opening minutes. He had one the rest of the night. Before reducing the Serths to some kind of groupthink monolith, I want to say I’m generally enjoying the novelty and nuance of Rose’s game. I don’t “hate” Rose. But tonight I found myself wondering if the Knicks’ best two-guard/sixth man is being typecast as their point guard. Just wondering.
  • Kanter and Steven Adams took lots of shots and hit twice as many as they missed and grabbed nearly as many offensive rebounds as all the Knicks. I can’t really think of an Eastern team with two bigs that talented who can play together. If Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor ever become that......
  • The two teams combined to take 41 threes and miss 27. Look, 3>2. I get it. But there’s something very Camazotz and disheartening and weird about watching every team pursuing efficiency and advanced metrics and pace-and-space and 3>2 when every team does not/cannot have the personnel to Golden State shit. Watching them try elicits all the aesthetic charm of a Stalinist purge.
  • Melo decided to go at Roberson again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. He was not having success, and the crowd sounded unanimous and vociferous in its response.
  • Midway through the first, Porzingis missed a running lefty hook shot. You know when, in baseball, a hitter crushes a ball 420 feet just foul? Even though he didn’t get a hit, the implication means more than the miss? Imagine Porzingis adding running lefty hook shots to the repertoire.
  • Some highlight-reel assists for Joakim Noah. Led Lee cutting to the basket. Also found Porzingis for an alley-oop. In perhaps the best sequence of the night, Melo ripped the ball clear out of Grant’s hands, dribbled a bit up the floor, found Noah running up the floor, and Noah threw Porzingis another alley-oop.
  • The Melo/Willy Hernangomez pick-and-roll is becoming one of the signature pleasures of this team.
  • Hernangomez and Kyle O’Quinn were the first subs off the bench. If only Noah had stayed on the floor with them, we’d have had our first Cerberus sighting of the season.
  • Who the @#$% is Joffrey Lauvergne?
  • Rose was drafted #1 overall in 2008. Westbrook went #4. Two and three were Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo. Your fortune cookie morsel of the night.
  • Billy Donovan is aging like Ray Liotta. You either get that or you don’t.
  • MSG televised the pregame national anthem by a little girl named Amanda Sweeney. In principle I could not care less about pregame national anthems. But this girl kinda sorta nailed it, yo! Some real vertiginous vocal verticality. Drilled the final soprano note. Nicely done!
  • I thought for a moment the anthem might actually be followed by (gasp!) televising the two teams’ intros. Nah. ‘Cuz we needed another iPhone7 commercial. They did show a kid from the Garden of Dreams foundation getting introduced. Which, I mean, what the......you know, I’ma drop this before I seem too Grinchy. But you know what I’m saying, and you know I’m right.

Quoth Disappointment: “Keep calm.” Tonight was a step back, but it’s worth remembering the pleasure that comes with following a team on the move. Meanwhile, the Knicks have a home-and-home Wednesday and Friday vs. Minnesota. Porzingis vs. Karl-Anthony Towns! Melo vs. Andrew Wiggins! Phil Jackson vs. Tom Thibodeau! Another chance to move over .500! Calm got nothing to do with that.