This time, it wasn’t the start that did them in. It was the finish. The Knicks jumped out to an early 11-point lead and held a nine-point advantage in the second quarter, but were eventually undone by the dynamo that is Russell Westbrook and his two burly big men, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter.
Westbrook extended his Triple-Double streak, but his numbers aren’t what did in the Knicks. In fact, Westbrook’s scoring production was countered by Derrick Rose’s 30 points.
It was 17 offensive rebounds and 28 second-chance points that the Thunder used to overwhelm the Knicks. Kanter and Adams combined for nine offensive boards, and OKC pounded the Knicks on the glass, 53-40.
Afterward, we heard a lot of talk out of the Knicks locker room about being “manhandled” and lamentations about a lack of toughness and physicality. It was a tough night for the front line, from Kristaps Porzingis to Willy Hernangomez to Kyle O’Quinn to Joakim Noah.
“It’s not fun to have that happen to you and have to answer questions about it,” Noah said of the Knicks effort inside (they allowed 66 points in the paint).
After a virtuoso performance by Carmelo Anthony last Friday against the Hornets, he appeared tired in this one. In the third game in four nights, his shooting struggles from Charlotte on Saturday continued with a 4-for-19 effort.
Melo got a heavy dose of isolation plays out of the mid-post and Thunder coach Billy Donovan left Andre Roberson to guard him one-on-one. Melo struggled to create separation from the long-armed Roberson and also had some issues finishing in the paint against the Thunder bigs.
So after winning three straight, the Knicks (8-9) have lost consecutive games to fall below the .500 mark. Their six-game home winning streak ended. And starting Wednesday in Minnesota, the Knicks will play 10 of their next 16 games on the road, where they are 1-6 on the season.
We will have the pregame coverage on Knicks Game Night starting at 7:30 PM on MSG.