Saturday, JANUARY 14, 2012
NYC vs OKC
Season Series: tied 0-0
Knicks VS Thunder
The New York Knicks wrap up this short road trip with a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night (Jan. 14). This will likely become an extremely difficult game for the Knicks to win, especially because it looks like Carmelo Anthony is out with an ankle injury. He tweaked his ankle against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night (Jan. 12), but luckily the X-rays came back negative. Still, he is probably not ready to return to the court, making the match-ups with the Thunder that much more difficult.
Oklahoma City currently has the best record in the Western Conference at 10-2 and is clearly the toast of the NBA world this season. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook lead a team that's packed with depth and geared up to make a serious run at the NBA Finals in 2012. It makes the team tough to play on any night, but even harder to beat if the opponent is missing one of its best players. That's the case this time around, as the Knicks take on the Thunder for the only regular season game between the two this year without Anthony.
Three players average at least 16 points per game for the Thunder, with Durant averaging 25.7, Westbrook averaging 18.8 and James Harden averaging 16.8 points a night. As a team the Thunder average 100 points a night over the first 12 games and it has been a combination of great shooting and ball control that has been the key. The team isn't great at rebounding, getting just 42.3 per game, but shooting 46.8 percent from the field, 37.1 percent from three-point range and 80.1 percent from the free throw line tends to make up for that.
Against the Knicks , the Thunder will start Kendrick Perkins at center, Serge Ibaka at power forward , Durant at small forward , Thabo Sefolosha at shooting guard and Westbrook at point guard. The team gets a lot of minutes from Harden and Nick Collison off the bench, and Harden is quickly making a case to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award. He is averaging 16.8 points off the bench, and you cannot foul him because he is an 89 percent shooter from the line.
Bill Walker is the likely candidate to start in the place of Anthony, taking the floor with Tyson Chandler at center, Amare Stoudemire at power forward , Landry Fields at shooting guard and Iman Shumpert at point guard. It certainly doesn't seem like a winning lineup compared to what the Thunder will offer up, but stranger things have happened. Stoudemire needs to really step up his game and take advantage of the mis-matches and Shumpert has to make sure he gets the ball. Josh Harrelson and Toney Douglas also need to play really well off the bench to take advantage of any time that Durant and Westbrook are getting rests.
A win on Saturday night is a tall task to ask of the Knicks without Anthony, but maybe it's an opportunity for the team to prove what it can do. Hopefully they are ready to really step up and play a great game on both ends of the floor. Anything less will result in a blowout loss. Game time is 8 p.m. ET for this one.