New York Knicks: Who Stepped Up Against The Oklahoma City Thunder?

The New York Knicks hosted Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, November 28. Who stepped up for the Knicks?


Nov 28, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) during a break in action against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have been building towards a successful season early in 2016-17. Since getting off to a 3-6 start to the regular season, the Knicks have played postseason-caliber basketball.

The season continued on Monday, November 28 with a home game against triple-double machine Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Westbrook and Enes Kanter dominated as the Thunder secured a 112-103 road victory over the Knicks. Westbrook finished with 27 points, 18 rebounds, and 14 assists, and Kanter tallied 27 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks.

It was yet another poor display by New York’s defense, which has allowed eight different teams to score at least 110 points.

With the loss, the Knicks fall to 8-9 overall and 7-3 at home. The 112-103 outcome snaps a six-game home winning streak and pushes New York back below .500 just two games after it improved to 8-7 on Friday, November 25.

The question is: who were the few players who stepped up for the Knicks during the nine-point home loss to the Thunder?

Nov 28, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) during warm ups prior to a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Willy Hernangomez

The New York Knicks have a future starter on the roster in rookie center Willy Hernangomez. He’s played with an eagerness to learn that has endeared him to his coaches, teammates, and newly acquired fans in New York.

Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Hernangomez continued to show signs of progress in what was a tough matchup against a deep interior.

Hernangomez played just 14 minutes against Oklahoma City, but he stepped up during his time on the court. He posted eight points, three assists, two rebounds, one offensive board, and two steals on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and a perfect 2-of-2 mark at the free throw line.

It was yet another balanced and efficient statistical performance by Hernangomez, who’s beginning to hit his stride.

Over the past five games, Hernangomez averaged 7.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 20.2 minutes on 70.8 percent shooting from the field. He’s still adjusting to the pace of the NBA game, but he’s not backing down from the challenge of playing significant minutes early in his career.

Joakim Noah remains the starter, but Hernangomez represents the bright future of Knicks basketball.

Nov 28, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee (5) looks to drive to the basket past Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Courtney Lee

The New York Knicks know what they’re going to get from Courtney Lee on a nightly basis. He’ll work on defense, find openings as a shooter, and take his man off the bounce to keep the opposition honest.

Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lee was one of the few Knicks players who stepped up on Monday, November 28.

Lee posted a quality 13 points to go with three rebounds, one assist, and two steals in 36 minutes of court time. He shot 5-of-10 from the field, went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, and stepped up in the clutch.

Though it was a nine-point loss to the Thunder, Lee still managed to record an even +/- of zero in his 36 minutes.

Lee sank a huge 3-point field goal to cut the deficit to 101-99 with 4:26 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was a continuation of what was par for the course with Lee as he made big shots when his team needed them most.

The Knicks may have lost, but Lee is firmly establishing himself as the type of glue guy that Phil Jackson intended to land.

Nov 28, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek talks with forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis

The New York Knicks have been able to depend on Kristaps Porzingis to provide the offense with consistent production. He’s scoring from all over the court, including a remarkable proficiency from 3-point range.

Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Porzingis got it done on both ends of the floor as he further established his status as a future All-Star.

Porzingis did a bit of everything against Oklahoma City with 21 points, five rebounds, one offensive board, two assists, five blocks, and two steals in 39 minutes. He shot 9-of-20 from the field and went 3-of-6 from beyond the arc in yet another grand display of his 3-point range.

Porzingis has been superb on offense throughout the 2016-17 season, but this was a necessary performance from a defensive perspective.

The Knicks’ defense has been erratic, at best, which makes the re-emergence of Porzingis as a shot-blocker quite significant. New York has struggled to prevent penetration and has been bullied on the boards on far too many occasions.

If Porzingis can redirect shots and become the deterrent he’s capable of being, however, the tide could turn sooner than later.

Nov 28, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) drives to the basket past Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Rose

Matched up with close friend and fellow explosive athlete Russell Westbrook, starting point guard Derrick Rose had himself a game. He electrified Madison Square Garden with his explosiveness and creativity at the rim, and kept New York alive during cold stretches.

Rose may have been written off by the masses, but he proved against Westbrook that he’s still one of the most explosive basketball players on the planet.

Rose finished with 30 points, seven rebounds, two offensive rebounds, and four assists in 38 minutes of playing time. He shot an efficient 10-of-20 from the field and made a perfect 10 of his 10 free throw attempts.

It was a strong showing by Rose, who had something to prove against the player whom one could argue is the only point guard more explosive than he: Westbrook.

Rose was the only Knicks player who consistently produced on the offensive end of the floor against Oklahoma City. Carmelo Anthony shot horribly, Kristaps Porzingis went cold for an extended stretch, and Rose did his best to bail them out.

If long-term development is the key, then Rose’s performance against Oklahoma City bodes well for his future with the Knicks.

If nothing else can bring a sense of optimism to New York, then Rose’s superstar-caliber performance against Oklahoma City should.

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