OKC’s “Big 3” debuts in victory over Knicks
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Much has changed about the Thunder. One thing hasn’t — Russell Westbrook still gets triple-doubles.
The reigning MVP had 21 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds, and Oklahoma City beat the New York Knicks 105-84 on Thursday night in their first regular-season game with All-Star additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony liked watching Westbrook’s dynamic play from a new perspective.
“You guys are used to it,” Anthony said. “I’m used to watching it. I’m used to going up against it. Now, to be on the other side of that on the same team as him, and to reap those benefits of what he can bring to the game — I’m excited about what we started out tonight, what we created tonight and where we’re headed.”
George, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Indiana Pacers, led the Thunder with 28 points. He said he wasn’t used to getting so many open looks, but Westbrook took pressure off of him.
“It’s great,” George said. “The game comes so easy. I know I’m going to get those easy opportunities like I did tonight. It’s only going to make me better.”
Anthony, who was traded from the Knicks to the Thunder right before training camp began, had 22 points against his former team.
“That chapter’s closed,” Anthony said. “No more Knicks talk. Just focus in on the Thunder moving forward and what we have to do.”
Kristaps Porzingis had 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks. Enes Kanter, who joined the Knicks in the deal that sent Anthony to the Thunder, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. No other New York players scored in double figures.
Anthony was impressed with Porzingis’ performance and willingness to take charge.
“Just to see that he’s ready to take on that role — he looked aggressive tonight,” Anthony said. “He looked comfortable, felt comfortable tonight. I was happy to see that.”
George broke away for a dunk as time expired in the first half to give the Thunder a 53-42 lead. Porzingis scored 19 points before the break to keep the Knicks in it.
Kanter made three buckets early in the third quarter to keep the Knicks in it, but Westbrook found Steven Adams and Andre Roberson for back-to-back alley-oop dunks to give the Thunder a 69-52 lead.
After that, it was time for the Westbrook triple-double watch. He reached double digits in assists midway through the third quarter, then grabbed his 10th rebound with about four minutes remaining in the game.
Knicks: Kanter and F Doug McDermott, the other player the Thunder sent to the Knicks in the Anthony deal, both got a standing ovation during pregame warmups. … McDermott scored four points on 2-for-5 shooting. … The Knicks shot 55.6 percent in the first quarter and still trailed 27-24, in part, because of 11 turnovers. They finished with 26 turnovers.
Thunder: The game marked the start of the 10th season for the Thunder in Oklahoma City. … Thunder C Dakari Johnson scored four points in his NBA debut. He was a G League All-Star last season. … F Jerami Grant’s fadeaway at the third-quarter buzzer gave Oklahoma City a 79-59 lead.
Kanter and Adams are best friends who were known as the `Stache Brothers when they played together with the Thunder.
“It felt weird because he knows my moves and everything,” Kanter said. “It definitely was good to see him and come back and play against those guys.”
DEFENSE STEPS UP
The Thunder allowed the Knicks to shoot 55.6 percent in the first quarter, then held them to 36 percent shooting the rest of the game. It allowed the Thunder to get away with shooting poorly early.
“I thought in the first half we had really good looks,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well. The thing with us was our defense. I was really pleased with that.”
Adams had a strong all-around game. He scored 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting, and grabbed five rebounds. He had five steals — one short of his career high — and added three blocks.
Knicks: Host Detroit on Saturday night.
Thunder: At Utah on Saturday night.