The Oklahoma City Thunder have been giving away Christmas Day
road games since the franchise’s time in Seattle.
Burdened with an unwanted tradition, the Thunder will spend this
Christmas at Madison Square Garden looking to snap a 10-game skid
in road games played on the holiday when they face the New York
Oklahoma City (22-5) may find the task a bit easier if Carmelo
Anthony is in street clothes after the Knicks’ leading scorer left
Monday’s 103-98 win over Orlando with a sprained left ankle.
Anthony will be a game-time decision, and his presence has made
all the difference for the teams he’s played for when facing the
Thunder. Dating to his time in Denver, he has won nine straight
against them and averaged 30.2 points. With Anthony out of the
lineup, his teams have lost four straight matchups.
“Hopefully I’ll be there,” Anthony said after leading the Knicks
with 19 points against the Magic. “I don’t want to miss that game.
It’s Christmas in the Garden. I don’t want to miss that game.”
Point guard Raymond Felton, meanwhile, has already been ruled
out with a strained right groin. He was playing his first game back
after a six-game absence due to a strained left hamstring when he
tweaked the groin in the fourth quarter.
“I’m concerned (about Anthony), but I’m not as worried about him
as I’m worried about Ray, the way he came back and then to go down
again. It’s tough,” Knicks forward J.R. Smith said. “He’s our point
guard, for sure.”
Smith added 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting against the Magic.
While injuries have limited the Knicks (9-18) all season, the
Thunder suffered a setback in the standings Sunday when they
snapped a nine-game winning streak with a 104-98 home loss to
Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 27 points, while Kevin
Durant added 24 on a season-worst 5-of-16 shooting.
Oklahoma City’s 36.8 percent night was its worst regular-season
mark at home since hitting 34.3 percent on Nov. 1, 2009 against
“Losses happen in this league,” Durant said. “They beat us fair
and square, you know? We missed some shots, too. I think our
defense was good. They got some shots late in the fourth quarter
that helped them a little bit but I think our defense was good. We
were swarming them and they hit some tough ones, too, but we missed
some good looks.”
Still, the Thunder have won 17 of 19 and present a difficult
task for the hobbled Knicks. The loss to the Raptors was their
first in eight games this season against the Eastern
Oklahoma City has also won eight straight on the road against
the East dating to last season, a streak that started with a 95-94
victory at the Garden on March 7 – a game that Anthony sat out due
to a sore right knee.
The Knicks, who have won their last two at home on Christmas,
are looking to win consecutive games for the second time this
season. They are 0-8 against the West, however, losing those games
by an average of 10.1 points. New York has scored 100 or more just
twice in those games, and Oklahoma City is 15-0 when holding
opponents to double digits.
The teams split two games last season with the road team winning