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Thunder 126, Knicks 103: “Zero three-pointers in a whole half in 2020”

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It’s the slow knife that cuts the deepest.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Look at this sideways sandwich.

Last night we got home late and ordered out. The fiancee was sick and tired and hungry and scrounging to find something vegan. We live somewhere not far removed from a time when the only vegetarian options were salads, french fries and mozzarella sticks, so vegan options can feel as rare as the Knicks being praised by the national media. It was almost 10:00 p.m. when the monstrosity above entered our home.

My girl saw this and was done. Everything was raw. No condiments. No mayo. No dressing. The broccoli was raw. The spinach was canned. If sandwiches were sentient and wild, this one’s mother would have fed it to its siblings straight out the womb. I offered to make her something. Offered her half my sub. Nothing doing. Sometimes one thing happens and that’s all it takes for all that follows to follow.

(If you’re wondering why the sandwich is sideways, so am I.)

Last night the Oklahoma City Thunder blew out the New York Knicks 126-103. The thing that happened that made everything else happen was the Thunder showing up for the game. It’s not any deeper than that. OKC are led by a first-ballot Hall of Famer and on the verge of their 11th consecutive winning season. The Knicks have that many over the past 27. Despite adding two rebuilds to three lost superstars the past five years, the Thunder are young, athletic and compelling. Most of their top 11 minutes-earners are 25 or younger. The Knicks are......young?

We talk a lot here about late fake comebacks. The other side of that coin is the fake early charity of a clearly superior opponent. OKC missed six of their first seven shots. I don’t watch them play a lot, so I began to think “Maybe they’re actually really bad. They look really bad.” Then Chris Paul hit a pull-up 3 with the shot clock expiring, and for good measure hit another trey on the Thunder’s next set, and that familiar flavor of unavoidable reality — blood and battery — set in. They ended the quarter on a 13-3 run.

In the second the Knicks were completely stifled in the paint by four-time Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Muto—oh, actually it was Nelrens Noel. You’ll have to forgive the confusion, because for quite a stretch Noel might as well have been Bill Russell: he denied Taj Gibson multiple looks right at the rim and devoured a Julius Randle shot like Saturn eating his children. I was going to attach an image here, but it seems the famous painting by Goya is now better known as a meme. So do what you will.

The Knicks were also blanking from deep, not hitting a single 3 in the first half. Damyean Dotson has hit a few 3s in his time, but he stayed nailed to the end of the bench because we’ve reached the point where the only way Dotson can get any attention is if he holds up a “Sell the team!” sign. No Allonzo Trier while the game was still in reach.

Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander both excelled in the opening 24, slowly but inexorably pushing the lead up just enough to know it was insurmountable. The Knicks ended the night with four three-pointers, one more than former Knick Danilo Gallinari and the same as future Knick? Paul. The Thunder may have had more alley-oops than turnovers. They opened the fourth on a 13-0 run were up as many as 34.

This was the most excruciating form of blowout — it didn’t get out of hand all at once; it was gradual but quick-setting. Getting blown out by the 2017 Warriors felt like a bomb landing on your head. Last night was death by boa constrictor. A squeeze. A little more. Little more. There is no fighting. There is no fight. Everything’s getting dark. Everything’s getting sparkly.

Notes:

  • Early in the game Paul hit a 3 and was immediately gesticulating and cajoling to a teammate about something. That dude is always pushing. I don’t know if trading for Paul is a worthwhile risk. I’ve no trouble imagining a near-future full of comment boards reading “ONLY THIS TEAM WOULD THINK TRADING 25-YEAR-OLD RANDLE FOR 35-YEAR-OLD PAUL WAS SMART!” I struggle to envision OKC shipping him here without extracting something of real value back. CP3’s value must be higher than it was a year ago, given that his contract has one less year on it and he’s played at an All-NBA level. And yet, I can’t deny the attraction when I imagine going from decades of Howard Eisley and Chris Duhon and Jarrett Jack to the Point God.
  • Lest you think I’ve gone all Pravda for Trier: when he finally got in the game he was promptly schooled by Paul on a baseline fadeaway and-one. Trier’s response: missing an open 3 that ended up bouncing high off the rim and the top of the backboard.
  • Elfrid Payton put up 18/9/8 on 59% from the field and I don’t know what to make of it anymore. I’m done trying to reconcile all the numbers and opinions and visuals. I am consciously choosing to no longer have opinions about Payton.
  • Frank Ntilikina left the game for a while with a strained right ankle but returned late.
  • Dennis Schröder drew a foul on Ntilikina while shooting a three. Does anyone know who tracks that stat? I feel like the Knicks must lead the league in that kind of foul, and certainly must have set a team record or are on pace to.
  • OKC wore their yellow City Edition unis to honor of the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a time when white supremacists were terrorists rather than president. The other night I saw another team wearing an alternate jersey featuring colors I’ve never seen on them before. If the Knicks ever introduce a new color to their scheme down the road, what would you like to see?
  • Paul is the only U.S.-born player starting for OKC. That’s gotta lead the league. Nobody has a full starting five born outside this country, right?
  • Mitchell Robinson needs to average between two and three field goals per game to qualify for the record for highest FG% in a season. A perfect five outta five last night.
  • With like 1:30 left in the first, OKC got a rebound and came up the floor. Schröder was halfway past midcourt to the arc when he fed Noel filling the lane with no one ahead of him. Noel wasn’t even looking for the pass, but happened to literally glance over right as the ball hit him in the hands. He then soared in for the dunk. That’s the closest I’ve ever seen a basketball play resemble the runner on third base scoring after a based-loaded walk.
  • M.S.G. public address announcer Mike Walczewski sounds certifiably crazy when he’s excitedly announcing “BO-bby POR-tis!” after a BP bucket cuts a 34-point deficit to 32.
  • Mike Muscala got some run for the Thunder. You may remember him as the player the Clippers were able to trade for Ivan Zubac, the starting center on the title-contending Clippers. Something to hold onto the next time you read a national news writer writing as if the Knicks are the only team in creation who make bad trades.
  • The Knicks are in the midst of their longest homestand of the season, yet I feel like I haven’t heard Mike Breen call a game in weeks.
  • There’s a liiiittle Crispin Glover to Billy Donovan.
  • The Nets and Billy Atkinson have “mutually” agreed to part ways? Bullshit. You know the behind-the-scenes was closer to this.

Quoth The only Knick with the Knack: “[Zero] three-pointers in a whole half in...2020.” Even the ‘90s Knicks are rolling over in their graves at that stat. Greg Anthony is suffering inexplicable migraines. John Starks is depressed and doesn’t know why. Doc Rivers is weighing leaving the Clippers and suiting up against for New York. The Knicks’ next game is tomorrow as they close their five-game homestand against Detroit. Insert your cadence of choice here.