Don’t sleep in, sleepyheads. The New York Knicks (6-6) host the Oklahoma City Thunder (5-7) at noon in a Sunday matinee. The Thunder are notorious for tanking under GM Sam Presti, but perhaps not so much this year? Sure, their offense ranks 24th in the league, but their defense rates a solid seventh, and SGA is thriving. Just this past Friday, they schooled the Toronto Raptors 132-113. As for the Knicks? Well, they won on Friday, too, but defeated the lowly Detroit Pistons in a less-than-convincing fashion.
Their records suggest that these are two average teams, and so do the stats. Both teams score about 113 points per game. The Knicks shoot 32.5% from three (27th in the league), the Thunder shoot 31.5% (29th in the league). They take almost the same number of threes, with New York attempting 35.9 (ninth) and OKC, 35.8 (tenth). The Thunder are 16th in the league with a net rating of -0.5. The Knicks rank 20th with a -1.5. The Knicks are 10th in pace, while the Thunder rate seventh.
The early start time, New York’s lethargic spells against Detroit, and the Thunder’s potential all make this a potential trap game. Tip-off’s at noon, goons.
Jalen Brunson dropped 26 points, and added seven assists and four steals versus the Pistons on Friday, a performance that kept the Knicks from slipping to the categorically worst team in the league. Where would they be without him? I shudder to think.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (6’6”, 180 lb.) has averaged 30.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.4 rebounds in 35.9 minutes per game. In his fifth season, the crafty point guard ranks second in total field goals (125) and free throw percentage (.938), fourth in steals per game (2), seventh in points per game and total points (336), etc. He’s no great threat from behind the arc, shooting only 33% on 2.7 attempts. Still, if the 24-year-old former Kentucky Wildcat is feeling frisky: enjoy the show.
Cam Reddish put up four points against the Pistons in 18 minutes. Based on recent performances, it’s safe to assume that Quentin Grimes will replace him in the starting five once Q’s foot is recovered. Cam will square against Josh Giddey (6’8”, 210 lb.), who has averaged 13.7 points and five dimes in nine games this season. Josh leads OKC with seven rebounds per contest.
RJ Barrett had 30 points, and added five boards and five dimes on Friday. Across from him on Sunday will be Luguentz Dort (6’3”, 215 lb.), who is averaging 12.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 30.7 minutes per game. Dort is a dud from deep, shooting an ugly 24% on 5.6 attempts per game. He has averaged 7.8 points and five rebounds in 4 games versus the Knicks in his career. Advantage: RJ.
Julius Randle logged 21 points, eight rebounds, and five assists against Detroit. As he should have. On Sunday, he’ll have a bulk, if not height, advantage against Aleksej Pokusevski (7’0”, 190 lb.). Poku has averaged 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 10 outings this season. The thin man shoots 34% from deep on 3.5 attempts.
Isaiah Hartenstein started in place of injured Mitchell Robinson (sprained knee) on Friday and is likely to again. iHart will meet Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (6’9”, 230 lb.), who has averaged 7.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.0 steal. JRE’s averages aren’t bad, shooting 47.7% from the field, 40% from deep on 3.2 attempts.
Expect a healthy number of threes taken, and a less-than-healthy number of them made. This game will come down to the final five minutes, with the Knicks pulling ahead thanks to their tougher frontcourt. Too close for comfort, though. Knicks by three.
Big apple. Sunday. Noon. Yahoo Knicks.