Thunder manhandle Carmelo-less Knicks
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
Westbrook was approaching his sixth career triple-double — with 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists — before coach Scott Brooks pulled his All-Stars with Oklahoma City leading by 30 points and nearly three minutes left in the third quarter.
It was the third straight time at Chesapeake Energy Arena that the starters didn't play a single minute in the fourth quarter of a blowout victory.
''You don't go into a game thinking that the starters will not play in the last quarter, but it's always nice,'' Brooks said.
''It's always nice to get everybody involved and everybody playing.''
New York played without Carmelo Anthony because of a sprained right ankle and injured left wrist, but it was the Knicks defense that was missing. West Division-leading Oklahoma City scored 70 points in the first half and was shooting 57 percent after three quarters before reserves missed 12 of 14 to start the fourth.
''We've got to put things in perspective, man. They didn't have one of the best players in the league tonight in Carmelo,'' Durant said. ''But for us, we have to stick to our principles of playing defense. Any team can break out and score, and they have a lot of guys that can step up.''
Coach Mike D'Antoni suggested before the game that the Knicks had been improving on the defensive end. Their last five opponents had averaged only 87.2 points, and none had scored even 50 points in a half.
The Thunder quickly did away with that line of thinking.
Durant, Harden and Westbrook combined for 53 points in the first half as Oklahoma City scorched New York's defense to build a 70-47 advantage.
''It's going to take a while. Almost always there's one or two rookies on the floor and just without training camp it's excuse, excuse and I don't want to do that,'' D'Antoni said. ''We're just struggling right now a little bit and we have to work through it, keep watching tape and keep trying to get better.
''We've got a four-game homestand. We'll get some of our guns back. Carmelo will be back soon and hopefully Baron (Davis) around the corner and we'll see what we've got.''
Durant needed a buzzer-beater to beat Dallas in Oklahoma City's second home game of the season, then Portland came in and beat the Thunder the next time out.
Since then, it's been smooth sailing. Oklahoma City has outscored its last three opponents 269-199 in the first three quarters at home — leading Houston by 22, San Antonio by 21 and New York by 27.
''We're trying to be consistent at that,'' Westbrook said. ''When we get leads, we need to be able to keep it going.''
New York's Bill Walker and Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka were called for a double foul during a skirmish after Harden's there-pointer from the left wing extended the Thunder's lead to 56-40 with 2:51 left before halftime. Instead of waking up the Knicks, it only ignited another run against them.
Durant converted a layup off of a failed alley-oop, Ibaka hit a jumper and Harden added a three-point play as Oklahoma City reeled off seven more points — for a 12-0 run in total — and pushed the lead out to 23. Westbrook rubbed salt in the wound by dribbling down the final few seconds of the half and drilling a three-pointer from the top of the key.
He then took a couple high steps and stuck his hands down at his sides as if he were sticking guns in holsters. Westbrook had been just 4 for 23 on three-pointers this season before hitting two of his three attempts against the Knicks.
''We didn't want to kind of look them off because they didn't have Carmelo, so I think we did a good job of staying focused and playing our game,'' Durant said.
''I think in years past, if we'd seen one of their key guys were out, we would kind of be relaxed,'' he added. ''I think tonight we didn't do that. We came out with a lot of intensity.''
Durant had a three-point play and Westbrook a driving layup during a run of nine straight points for the Thunder that pushed the lead to 85-55 midway through the third quarter, and both were on the bench for good not long after that.
The Thunder matched their longest winning streak from last season, when they made it to the Western Conference finals.
The Knicks also had a free fall in their last game, letting an 11-point halftime deficit grow to 23 after Anthony went out in the third quarter.
''It will get better. Definitely has to get better,'' Chandler said. ''We gave up way too many points. Tonight our offense did a better job moving the ball and scoring points but we had a letdown defensively.''
Jared Jeffries, who had been out since opening night with a strained left calf, played 22 minutes in his return and missed all four of his shots. He did hit a free throw and pulled down five rebounds.
NOTES: Knicks assistant Mike Woodson got a technical foul in the first four minutes, just after Stoudemire was whistled for the first foul of the game and protested on the opposite end of the floor. Stoudemire picked one up just over a minute into the second quarter. ... Westbrook came out of the game for 22 seconds in the first quarter after twisting his left ankle by stepping on Mike Bibby's foot. ... The Thunder play 11 of their next 14 games on the road.