At least we got a marvelous first quarter before it all reverted to reality.
The Knicks came out and shelled the Thunder to the tune of 39 points in the first 12 minutes. Melo was apparently emboldened by the pregame discovery that he made the All-Star team; he hit his first seven shots, including four treys. Derrick Rose was apparently emboldened by a gutsy win over San Antonio; he came out slinging in a very uncharacteristic manner, balancing his scoring with playmaking. The rest of the team played off both guys effectively, and after jumping out to a 16-2 lead, they peaked with a 17 point lead in the 2nd quarter.
Of course, we all knew what was coming. As P&Ter felinequickness prophesized in the game thread, ”Give it time, the tank is resilient.”
The rest of the night was typical Knicks. After the Thunder recovered from the first quarter punch in the mouth, they began playing with a passion and physicality this team just couldn't match. The offense disappeared like the end of a Lady Gaga halftime show, and it took the defense along with it. Our guys actually defended pretty well in the halfcourt for most of the game (OKC, second-worst 3 point shooting team in the league, shot 52% from 3, with Jerami Grant and Andre Roberson shooting 100%), but live ball turnovers submarined that effort (15 turnovers leading to 16 OKC points). Once that happened, all the Thunder had to do was pull on the loose thread. They pulled pretty hard.
— Melo is still really good. There may have been players more deserving of his All Star spot, but he is not undeserving of it, either. I still marvel at the way he cranks off catch and shoot 3’s with 15cm of airspace between him and his defender. Too much ISO late in the game, but that seemed like a symptom of the team offense. The first quarter, filled with catch and shoot attempts, was spectacular, and it was exactly what you want his shot distribution to look like.
— I rip on Brandon Jennings constantly, so it's only fair that I point out how much the Knicks missed him tonight. As I outlined in my feature a while back, Ron Baker doesn't profile as a lead ball handler, and you could see why tonight. In lineups with Baker at the 1, nobody could get in the paint or break down their man off the dribble. For all his warts, that's exactly what was needed tonight — once Rose came in and pushed Baker to the 2, the Knicks were able to make a mini run to ensure false hope lived juuuuuust a bit longer (Baker somehow finished with a +/- of 0).
— Speaking of which: Derrick Rose in the first quarter was the polar opposite of the Derrick Rose we’ve seen the rest of the season (and the rest of the game). He came out with the intent to make plays, and it worked well; he had four assists in the first quarter. All that went out the window in the second half. Rose had another night with some truly spectacular finishes, which is part of the reason I think he's in the wrong role, but they needed first quarter Rose to stay for the entire game. He did not.
— Russell Westbrook is a freak. There had to be four or five times where the shit he did just completely defied description.
— Kristaps Porzingis shoots like this (4/13, 1/4 from 3) when he strays outside the general flow of the offense. I don't mean to pick on him too hard, because he's still young and has plenty of time to improve, but we have to be real — he has his own brand of "fuck you, I'm shooting now." This was one of those nights. He came out dealing on both ends, but once the concept of team offense disappeared again, he went rogue. Get this dude a real point guard, please.
— Willy Hernangomez continues to do impressive stuff. Watching him battle with Steven Adams was entertaining, mostly because each guy seems to annoy his opponent more often than not. Hernangomez defended pretty well, though, and he finished with 3 blocks and 2 steals (not that those are always representative of good defense).
— Knicks got demolished on the glass (-9 differential), as they always seem to do against bruising teams like OKC.
— The refs did not call a great game, but it was at least moderately consistent. They called it like a playoff game. There were a bunch of questionable calls, as usual, but the Knicks backed down and OKC did not. Furthermore, each bad call is a 120mm shell looming in the background as the tank rolled on.
All Star break, here we come. We get to see KP, Willy, and Melo in action, and it won't even matter when they lose! Awesome!