Thunder look to get back on track against Knicks
OKLAHOMA CITY — Before the season began, members of the New York Knicks were trying to sell the public on their status as a contender. With Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Kristaps Porzingis on the roster, it was easy to see how they might fostered that idea.
However, instead of being a super team, the Knicks have been a super failure.
On the court, they have been saddled with injuries, inconsistent play and lack of a defensive aptitude.
Off the court, it has been one controversy after another. It all came to a head last week when team owner James Dolan had former Knicks great Charles Oakley ejected from the stadium by a group of security officers and then banned for life, a punishment that was lifted Tuesday.
Even as the Knicks became the joke of the sports world, they went out and picked up their biggest win of the year Sunday, beating the San Antonio Spurs 94-90 in Madison Square Garden.
New York hopes to continue its good play when it visits Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Knicks ended their homestand 1-4, but the victory over the Spurs is something they can grasp onto to build for the second half of the season.
“Now we got it on tape against a good opponent,” Knicks guard Courtney Lee said. “We’re showing that we’re capable of doing it against those guys and guys are capable of being able to rotate and help each other out and play for each other. We can’t look back. We have to use this as a measuring stick and get better from it.”
This will be the second meeting between the teams this year. The Thunder defeated the Knicks 112-102 om Nov. 28 at Madison Square Garden.
The Wednesday contest will be the last game for both teams before the All-Star break.
Oklahoma City is riding a two-game losing streak after getting ripped apart by the Washington Wizards 120-98 on Monday night. The previous game was a blowout home loss to the Golden State Warriors and former Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant on Saturday.
The Thunder had only one starter score in double figures Monday, and that was Russell Westbrook, who finished with a subpar (by his standards) 17 points to go with four rebounds and four assists. The game got out of hand so quickly, the All-Star point guard played only 24 minutes.
In the past two games, Oklahoma City has allowed 250 points. That is not the type of defense coach Billy Donovan wants to see from his club.
“There’s a mental toughness that needs to be built up,” Donovan said. “If you’re not making shots and the ball isn’t going in the basket, it’s hard to keep running back there and defending and grinding.
“Over a period of time, that’s challenging, but that’s something you have to build towards where you can understand the most important things like coming down the floor, move the ball, attack the paint, extra pass, generate a good shot. We have to live with the result, but then we have to get back and be able to guard.”