The last time these teams faced off on Christmas Day, Russell Westbrook became the 5th player in NBA history to post a Christmas Day triple-double, as the Thunder dominated 123-94. Following that game, Westbrook’s knee swelled to the point that he became very concerned. He was subsequently diagnosed with knee effusion (water on the knee), and opted for surgery to correct the issue. The surgery went off without a hitch, but Westbrook was told he needed to rest, and that he would be reevaluated once the NBA All-Star break came around.
Carmelo Anthony was out of the Christmas Day game with a sprained left ankle. He would, however, be suiting up for yesterday’s affair. Hence, the storyline was pretty well set in stone: The NBA’s top two scorers were going head-to-head. And this time, the Thunder were going to have to get it done without Westbrook.
The game itself was actually very tight throughout the first half. The 1st quarter brought us 1 tie and 5 lead changes, with the largest lead being 3 for the Thunder, and 5 for the Knicks. The lead at the end of the quarter belonged to the Thunder by 1, 29-28.
I would say the pull-away started in the 2nd, with the Knicks largest (and final) lead only being 1 (35-34) at the 9:26 mark. Yet, the Thunder were only able to open up a maximum lead of 6 points (46-40 at the 5:32 mark) throughout the entirety of the 2nd. The Thunder did maintain a 5-point lead to take into halftime (58-53).
The 3rd is where the real separation started. The Knicks were able to pull within 1 (61-60) with 9:39 to play in the 3rd. At this point, the Thunder decided they’d had enough, and opened up a 15-4 run that extended the Thunder lead to 12 (76-64) with 5:54 remaining in the 3rd. The Knicks tried as hard as they could to cut into the lead, but it was still at 8 (86-78) when the 3rd expired.
A little bit of back-and-forth started the 4th quarter, and the Knicks even closed the lead to 6 (92-86) with 8:29 to play. Then a Thunder run of 13-4 effectively closed the door on the Knicks’ chances, as the Thunder lead was extended to 15 (105-90) with a mere 2:48 to play. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Thunder claimed a 112-100 victory that puts their record at 41-12, while dropping the Knicks to 20-31. This win also completed the season series sweep for the Thunder.
Kevin Durant was actually just 1 assist shy of a triple-double (41 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists). But, the fact that he earned 9 assists means other players were getting the job done as well. Every Thunder starter managed to double in at least one category, with Reggie Jackson dropping 19 points, Serge Ibaka hitting 16, and Thabo Sefolosha adding 12. Even Kendrick Perkins pulled down 11 boards, and Derek Fisher was able to drop 10 points off of the Thunder bench.
‘Melo obviously had an off night, scoring a mere 15 points off of 5-for-19 shooting. Raymond Felton’s 16 was enough to outscore him, as Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert dropped 12 points apiece. Amar’e Stoudemire’s 16 points off of the bench even outscored ‘Melo, and Jeremy Tyler added 10 more bench points for the Knicks.
Now the Thunder take to the road before the All-Star break, heading to Moda Center in Portland for a final showdown with the Trail Blazers. This has probably been one of the most interesting Northwest Division matchups, as the Blazers took the first two games of the series: The first being a 111-104 heartbreaker at Moda Center back on Dec. 4th, and the second being a 105-97 loss on Dec. 31st at “The ‘Peake” that marked their first New Year’s Eve loss of the OKC era. The Thunder have since claimed a 105-97 victory at “The ‘Peake” on Jan. 21st, but need one more to keep the Blazers from taking the season series outright. Tip-off is scheduled for 9pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.