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Thunder 129, Knicks 120: “This game was winnable“

So many turnovers they could legally drink in Europe.

New York Knicks v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Knicks (17-13) kicked off their three-game road trip on Wednesday and fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 129-120 at Paycom Center.

A few days after celebrating Christmas at the Garden by beating the mighty Bucks, the guys went back to the losing column in what was “a winnable game,” as said by JalenBrunsavior, who explained the statement in the comments section of our Game Thread yesterday with sublime accuracy.

Thibs will say he went with size, liked RJ’s defense, blah blah blah.

You can’t be a winning coach if you can’t be aware of each players overall contributions on the court. You can’t just ignore offense and team chemistry because of some preconceived, clearly flawed theories about defense.

This game was winnable. It turned in a matter of 1 or 2 key errors by Barrett who had no business being in the game when IQ and DDV were playing so well.

JalenBrunsavior either comes from the future or knows Thibs, or hell, simply has been a fan of the Knicks for enough time to know the coach and his particular particularities. Peep:

We all get it. The change made some sense if you go by Thibs’ reasoning about length.

“You’re gonna finish with different guys and it’s what the game needs. Sometimes it’s matchups, sometimes someone’s got it going, sometimes you need size, you’re looking at the switching. You’re asking guys to sacrifice because you can only put five out there,” Thibodeau said. “They have length with their wings, you’re gonna be doing some switching so you’re trying to match up that way.”

The Thunder have a reasonably big lineup all across the court, and Immanuel Quickley (who was benched in favor of RJ Barrett) is a small-ish guard. RJ has the size and mobility to switch from one to three, even four if needed.

But. There’s always a but.

IQ dropped 22 points in 24 minutes off the pine, quite a feat (playing that many minutes, I mean) considering his role in Thibodeau’s rotation. He finished with a +2 plus/minus, the only player in green for the Knicks outside of Isaiah Hartenstein (+4). He nailed 7-of-10 shots from the field, 4-of-5 threes, and 4-of-4 freebies. Added a couple of dimes and turned the ball over once.

Oh, just in case, the Knicks as a team gave the ball away 18 times to the Thunder’s four giveaways. No wonder New York got outscored 21-5 on takeaway plays.

“We turned the ball over,” Jalen Brunson said postgame. “I turned the ball over way too much. They capitalized on our turnovers, and so, if we have our average turnovers, it’s a different game. But we just coughed it up too much.”

Perhaps that’s the case, perhaps it doesn’t matter if you remove the only piece making the machine work only for the replacement to instantly become the weak and ultimately broken link of the chain.

Barrett entered the game with 4:00 left on the clock. Thunder is up by 7 points, 113-106. This is what happened before and after that substitution.

Before The Substitution

Quickley enters the game for Donte DiVincenzo with 4:07 left in the third quarter. Knicks down 83-81.

Quickley scores a three-point jumper (91-89) before the quarter ends. Makes a floating shot shortly into the fourth (95-91). Makes a couple of free-throw shots a few minutes after that (100-96). Makes a three-point shot two minutes later (106-100). Assists I-Hart for a dunk (108-102). Makes another jumper (110-104).

After The Substitution

Barrett turns the ball over two seconds after gracing the hardwood (113-106). Misses a 3-point shot. Thibs calls a timeout (116-106). Makes a three-point shot (121-111). Gets a defensive rebound. Commits a personal foul (121-113).

The play-by-play listing isn’t damaging enough. I trust a few Knicks fans but I trust Jonathan Macri and Rit Holtzman. Like their opinions or not, you better check their comments.

Nuff said.

I love Barrett and I want to love him even more. I love IQ and I have already accepted the Knicks will lose him in six months (if not two).

From there to simply denying him opportunities, touches, and minutes to raise the floor of this team is borderline malpractice.

Yes, this game was not lost by RJ Barrett, but it could have been won (or made closer) by another of those IQ miraculous, out-of-nowhere efforts. Sadly, we’ll never know about it.

The Knicks weren’t awful on Wednesday, mind you. The turnovers, however, murdered them on the spot.

New York shot 50/41/80 splits to answer Oklahoma City’s 54/44/77 line. Both times drained the same number of three-point shots, 14 each. The Knicks outscored OKC 24-17 from the charity stripe but gave up 62 points in the point while scoring 50 themselves. It wasn’t that bad. (The Thunder blocked 10 shots, yes).

Barrett, who logged 30 minutes, scored 14 points on 14 shots. He shot 5-of-14 from the field and a cringy 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. He turned the ball over a team-high five times.

Julius Randle led the team with 25, followed by Brunson’s 24 and IQ’s 22. The trio shot at least 46% from the field. Donte DiVincenzo finished the day with 17 points but didn’t contribute that much stats outside of that.

It was a bizarre game, all things considered. All starters turned the ball over at least once. Brunson had five, tying RJ. Randle finished with three TOs, Hartenstein had two, and both Josh Hart and IQ turned the rock over once apiece.

Speaking of Hart, he pulled down seven rebounds and dished out six assists but only scored four points.

Again, the Knicks lost this game by nine. The horrible 25-38 start (on the second night of a back-to-back set of games played by the spry Thunder, just in case) didn’t help.

“We started slowly. We were playing from behind,” Thibodeau said.

But the Knicks made it 83-all by the middle of the third.

“I thought we had pretty good resolve. We didn’t let it get away from us and then we couldn’t finish it in the end,” the coach added.

No excuses.

“I mean, I shot 13 free throws,” Randle said. “It’s tough to get every call. Did I think a few were missed? Yes.

“It was just a little frustration with the consistency with the calls. But like I said, I got 13 free throws, so it’s hard to really complain.”

Two more games away from home, both before the 2023 year comes to a close. Orlando comes next, tomorrow, before a trip to Indianapolis on New Year’s Eve. Tip-off at 7 pm ET, don’t miss it.