Tip-Off: 8:30 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Television: ESPN, FSOK
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
G Derrick Rose is not the explosive MVP that he was prior to his series of knee injuries, but he is having a decent season in his first year with the Knicks. In the first matchup of the season between the Knicks and the Thunder, Rose led all scorers with 30 points on 10/20 (50%) shooting from the field and 10/10 (100%) from the free throw line. He also tacked on 7 rebounds and 4 assists. For the season, Rose is averaging 17.6 points while shooting 46.1% from the field along with 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Russell Westbrook needs to take some pride in his defense and shut down Rose, or else Rose could catch fire like he did earlier this season.
Keys to the Game
- Power in the Paint: In their first meeting with the Knicks in New York, the Thunder absolutely dominated down low as they outscored the Knicks 66-46 in the paint and outrebounded them 53-40. Oklahoma City also managed 28 second-chance points to New York’s 18. Enes Kanter had one of his best games of the season against the Knicks as he scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but he is still out with a broken forearm, so the Thunder will look to Steven Adams, who also had a solid game that night as he put up 14 points and pulled down 10 boards. Oklahoma City and New York are tied for 3rd in the NBA in rebounding with 46.1 boards per game, but the Thunder is 2nd in the league in points in the paint with 49.4 per game while the Knicks allow 46.3 points in the paint per game, which is 26th in the league. The Thunder has to control the interior in order to effectively open up the rest of the offense.
- Second Unit Success: Since Enes Kanter went out with injury, the Thunder bench has gone from mediocre to atrocious, and something has got to change soon. Oklahoma City’s backups performed well against the Knicks in their first matchup, scoring 48 points, but 27 of those came from Kanter. In the Thunder’s 9 games without Kanter so far, the bench is averaging 32.3 points per game, which is 4.1 points fewer than they averaged with him. While that does not seem like a lot, the Thunder offense becomes visibly stagnant as soon as Russell Westbrook leaves the court, and that cannot happen if they expect to continue to win ball games.
- Turn Up the Transition Game: Oklahoma City excels when it runs the fast break, and the Thunder ranks 3rd in the league in fast break points per game with 17.0. New York is a pretty poor team at defending in transition, giving up 13.7 fast break points per game (20th in the NBA). The Thunder have not been as strong in transition lately, however, so they will need to pick up the pace while still maintaining control and taking care of the ball. In their first showdown with the Knicks, The Thunder owned the fastbreak advantage 14 points to 8, so they will likely look to at least repeat that, if not do even better.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.