With the physically and emotionally draining stretch the New York Knicks had last week, ending with three games in four nights, all losses, to the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Cleveland Cavaliers, the team had a chance to rest Sunday, and practice Monday and Tuesday. It paid off, with crisp ball movement, only 11 turnovers, and balanced attack that saw six Knicks reach double figures, as the Knicks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-98.
When asked about the three days off, Raymond Felton said “It was perfect. It let our bodies rest. Two days of practice was real big for us.” Ronny Turiaf agreed, stating “I’m more so concerned about practicing Two days we had really hard, really good practices.” Responding to his team being tired, Knicks head Coach Mike D’Antoni responded “I think more than physically, it was emotional. We had to come back down to sea level after the week we had at the Garden. That is the NBA.” Conach D’Antoni raved about Knicks rookie Landry Fields, saying “He just figures out what the team needs. He is working on his threes. He just keeps improving defensively and offensively. He is a smart payer. He can be a great player. He is what all coaches want…a glue guy. He can be a great player on a good team…let’s put it that way.” Fields, meanwhile, was very complimentary of Raymond Felton. “Whenever the ball’s in his hands he makes plays.”
The Knicks came out fast and with a lot of energy, taking a 5-point lead in the first quarter on a running jumper from Amar’e Stoudemire, but the Thunder came back, cosing the first quarter on 10-4 run to take a 1-point lead, 28-27, at the end of one. The Thunder would go up by as many as 8, 41-33, on a jumper by Thabo Sefolosha, but the Knicks would take the lead 42-41 on a Wilson Chandler 3-pointer, a lead they would not relinquish. The Knicks would go up by as many as 22, 112-90, on a dunk by Timofey Mozgov. This was long after the game was over, as Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks took out his two best players, the National Basketball Association’s leading scorer, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook, with five minutes left in the game.
When asked about taking the out with five minutes to go, Brooks said he felt “Enough was enough.” He also added the Knicks “player with a lot of urgency tonight.” When asked about the Knicks ball movement, Brooks said “That was the best passing first half I’ve seen against us all year.” He continued complimenting the Knicks, saying “They won a lot of games during that stretch because they are good. They’re a talented team. They play hard and they play together.”
The Knicks were lead by Stoudemire with 23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks. Wilson Chandler finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, while Fields added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Danilo Gallinari tallied 13 points and a season-high 5 assists, and Raymond Felton 12 points while dishing out 10 assists and pulling down 6 rebounds. Ronny Turiaf added 11 points off the bench.
The Thunder were let by Durant, who scored 26, but only 7 in the second half, and pulled down 7 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook, who scored 23 points and added 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Jeff Green scored 14 points while pulling down 7 rebounds, and James Harden came off the bench to score 13 points and grab 5 rebounds.
When asked about the ending of former Knicks coach Larry Brown’s tenure in Charlotte, Felton, who played under Brown, said “My heart goes out to him. He is always willing to teach. I will probably give him a call tomorrow.”
The Knicks host the Chicago Bulls at noon on Christmas Day.