The New York Knicks had no business even being in the game without Carmelo Anthony, but they played their hearts while falling just short of upsetting the defending Western Conference Champions, 95-94. J.R. Smith, who had 36 points on the night, including six threes, wasn’t able to execute on a last second isolation, and wound up missing a contested fadeaway that would have won the game for his team. Kevin Durant had 34 points in a physical, primetime matchup.
The Thunder had a huge first quarter, riding a 16-0 run to a nine point lead after the first quarter. By halftime, the Knicks were down only by four, led by Smith’s 18 points in 16 minutes. The Knicks really set the tone in the second quarter and despite missing their leading scorer, were able to step up defensively and make this game harder than it ever should have been for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook struggled throughout most of the night, but was able to clamp down defensively on the last play of the game, and ended the game with 21 points and five assists. The Knicks will have to wait until April 7th for their shot at revenge in Oklahoma City.
Knicks Game MVP – No brainer here. J.R. Smith needed to step up in Melo’s absence and he outdid himself, dropping 36 point and carrying the Knicks offensively. The Thunder had no answer for Smith all game, and although he couldn’t get it done in the closing minutes of the game, the Knicks wouldn’t have even been close without him. He shot 14-29 from the field, including six treys.
Knicks Game LVP – The Knicks got legitimate contributions from everyone who played tonight. Heck, even Kurt Thomas knocked down a jumper and brought down a couple boards in five minutes of play. Shumpert played 27 minutes tonight, and I’m not sure why James White continues to start, so as a protest I’m giving White the LVP.
Play Of The Night – The Knicks played physical defensively all game, but a statement was really made when Kenyon Martin knocked Durant down on a hard foul late in the fourth quarter. It was originally called a flagrant but was downgraded upon further review. This foul was not as significant to the game as it is to the Knicks season. Being on national television, the Knicks showed how physical they can be on defense and sent the message to other teams that thing will not be easy in the paint for the rest of the year.
Turning Point – The turning point in this game was the whole second quarter. Despite being down nine heading in to it, the Knicks stepped up their defense and refused to roll over for the Thunder. J.R. Smith went bananas in the quarter, and had 18 points in 16 minutes by half. The tone was set defensively and the Thunder knew at this point that they had a game on their hands.
What’s Next – The Knicks host the Utah Jazz at the Garden on Saturday night. This will be their first of two meetings within nine days of each other. Hopefully, Melo will be able so suit up.