The New York Knicks suffered a tough loss in their season opener to Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder. Here’s five stats that tell the story.
The final score of Thursday night’s regular-season premiere between the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder isn’t indicative of the effort New York put forward. Especially not in the first half.
The Knicks hung in there with the Thunder in the first half. They were down 11 at the break, 53-42. OKC was shooting 38.6 percent as a team and had made just 6-of-22 from three-point range (.273). Then it all fell apart in the second half. OKC made 47.8 percent of their shots, and Russell Westbrook had 10 of his 16 assists.
The Knicks expected an onslaught from Carmelo Anthony, and they got one. The ten-time All-Star put up six shots in the first quarter alone. He wanted to make a statement. More on the former face of the Knickerbockers later.
But this wasn’t just about Anthony; it was the beginning of a new era. Kristaps Porzingis was finally the top guy in New York. With Anthony out of town, the Knicks could run their offense through the former No. 4 overall pick.
New York dropped their opener, 105-84, due to bad defense and the rest of the Knicks shooting the ball poorly. While Porzingis was a respectable 11-of-25 from the field, his teammates were a combined 21-of-54 (.389).
1. The Fastbreak Points
To borrow a basketball cliche: Oklahoma City ran New York out of the gym on Thursday night. Russell Westbrook typically has that effect on opposing teams, but the Knicks were particularly overwhelmed. This was a truly special performance.
The Thunder had 35 fastbreak points. Anthony and Westbrook combined for 24 of those points with 12 apiece. The Knicks, on the other hand, finished with just eight. The up-tempo style that Jeff Hornacek wants to run will need some getting used to.
The first two years Hornacek was the coach of the Phoenix Suns his teams were first and then third in fast break points per game respectively. He’s counting on these teams to repeat that level of success, but they have a long way to go.
2. The Turnovers
New York’s lack of a starting point guard was apparent on Thursday night as the team committed a staggering 26 turnovers. The Thunder weren’t known for that skill—18th in opponent turnover percentage last season—but they showed up tonight.
To make things worse, the Knicks only had 19 assists on the game. They’re hoping that a pass-first lead guard like Frank Ntilikina will be able to help fill that role one day. On Thursday, Frank played five minutes, and both of his shots were air balls. So he’s not quite there yet.
Not that the other Knicks point guards did the team any favors. Ron Baker looked lost out there. He played 22 minutes and turned the ball over four times in comparison to his four assists. Ramon Sessions might as well have not existed. In 21 minutes he recorded one assist and three turnovers.
3. Willy Hernangomez’s Entire Line
Willy Hernangomez—member of the NBA All-Rookie First-Team last season—strangely didn’t see any action Thursday until garbage time in the fourth quarter. By the time he entered the game, the result was already decided.
The 23-year-old played just three minutes, attempted and made just one shot for three points, and didn’t grab a single rebound. Overall it was a pretty miserable night for Hernangomez. Most people thought he was in competition for the starting job with Kanter.
After the loss, Jeff Hornacek told Ian Begley of ESPN that Hernangomez barely played because Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn “earned their minutes based in the preseason but nothing is set in stone.”
4. Melo and KP’s Usage
This was foreign territory for Anthony and Porzingis. Melo was no longer the man, and Porizngis finally was. It was interesting to see how their first game in their new roles played out. One guy has made a seamless adjustment and the other, maybe not so much.
Porzingis led all players with a usage percentage of 34.9 percent in the game. He put up 25 shots and drew six personal fouls from the opponent. Ron Baker was the only other player to draw six fouls. KP looked right at home as the main guy.
Now, Anthony may not be ready to become the third wheel just yet. The mad bomber act he put up on Thursday could’ve just been because he was playing his old team. But let’s assume it wasn’t. Anthony led the team in usage percentage and finished second in shots behind George. Westbrook only took 12 shots. That has to change.
5. The Hustle Stats
If you don’t know about NBA.com’s hustle stats yet, then you need to learn right now. They’re a fun metric for any fan and stat nerd to judge how a team played on whatever night. Among other things, the stat tracks deflections, screen assists, and loose balls recovered.
Take a look at the numbers from Thursday’s matchup between Oklahoma City and New York. Oklahoma City had 21 deflections to New York’s 11; they recovered three loose balls while the Knicks just one. Not surprisingly, it was Ron Baker.
The hustle stats are indicative of the type of team you have. Do you have an aggressive squad that’s willing to go all out on defense? Almost positive that’s not true. Of New York’s 11 deflections, Baker had five of them. OKC had five players with more than one deflection.