The New York Knicks came out of the gate strong Monday night against the Thunder, but in the end Russell Westbrook and co. were too much.
The New York Knicks were leading Monday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder after one quarter. OKC’s glaring defensive issues were showing, and Russell Westbrook had picked up two fouls before he had the chance to could go full-Westbrook. Things were looking up.
The Knicks were outscored 88-74 in quarters two through four and outshot .521 (37-71) to .380 (27-71). Anthony made just 2 of his last 15 shots and will undoubtedly take a heavy load of the blame for the 112-103 loss.
Westbrook did eventually go full-Westbrook with six assists and eight rebounds in the second quarter, leaving him one assist shy of a triple-double at halftime.
Russ finished with his third straight triple-double (27 points, 18 rebounds, and 14 assists) and almost nearly his third straight game with 15 assists. He’s the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1963-64 to average a triple-double in the month of December.
After the win, Westbrook was asked if he could sustain his current pace and as usual kept the topic to the team.
“Winning is sustainable,” he said. “That’s all I know, man, and my job is to make sure we go out and find the best way to win games and right now we’ve won three straight and that’s the most important part for me.”
But as phenomenal as Westbrook was, and always is, the Knicks didn’t lose because of the All-Star point guard.
Noah — who saw fourth quarter action for the first time in five games — admitted his team got pushed around but placed some of the blame on Westbrook’s pace.
“We got manhandled,” Noah said, clearly frustrated. “That’s tough. Russ definitely puts a lot of pressure on the bigs when he’s going downhill like that. At the end of the day it’s always tough knowing that we lost the game on the glass.”
The Knicks were outrebounded 63-47 and their second leading rebounder was Rose with 7. Noah only had 3 in 26 minutes. It wasn’t a fair fight.
New York was outscored in the paint 66-46 and gave up 28 second chance points.
The Knicks rank dead last in defensive rebound rate because their bigs have been weak all season, and OKC ranks in the top 10 of offensive rebound rate because of Kanter and Adams.
OKC’s dynamic duo had five offensive rebounds — three led to points — in the final 5:45 which helped seal the deal for the Thunder.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek said his team wasn’t just outmuscled in the fourth quarter, but outhustled too.
“They just outmuscled us,” coach Jeff Hornacek said afterward. “Outmuscled and in that (fourth-quarter) stretch they outhustled us. They were quicker to the balls. We didn’t do a very good job of boxing guys out. If we think we’re going to just turn and not drive a guy away from the basket, just turn thinking you’ll get it — we told them, Kanter and Adams, those guys, you’re going to have to hit them and hit them hard. They were just tougher than us.”
Harsh but true words from the head coach.
Derrick Rose’s highest-scoring game (30 points) as a Knick was spoiled by the loss. Coincidentally the last time Rose scored 30 points was at Madison Square Garden on March 4, 2016, as a member of the Bulls.
The Knicks begin a home-and-home set Wednesday on the road against Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves.