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Thursday, March 7, 2013
W2W4: Knicks vs. Thunder

By Ian Begley

The Knicks have been solid against Western Conference teams at Madison Square Garden, winning nine of 12 games this season.

That success will be put to the test tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder (44-16), owners of the third-best record in the NBA.

Tipoff is at 8 p.m. Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

WILL THE D SHOW UP? Led by Kevin Durant (NBA-leading 28.6 points per game) and Russell Westbrook (32.2 ppg in the past five games), the Thunder boast one of the top offenses in the NBA. They average a league-high 110.7 points per 100 possessions and are lethal on the pick-and-roll.

The Knicks have struggled to contain the pick-and-roll for most of the season. They've also had a tough time containing opposing point guards.

Lately, though, they have improved on defense. New York is holding teams to 43.5 percent shooting and just 90.3 points in four games in March. On the season, the Knicks have allowed an average of 96 points per game on 46 percent shooting.

A key tonight will be their ability to slow down the OKC pick-and-roll and their penetration from the perimeter.

WILL MELO PLAY? Carmelo Anthony sat out Wednesday's game with a sore right knee, an injury he aggravated in the first half of Monday's game against Cleveland. He's questionable tonight.

Melo said earlier this week that his knee has been an issue for some time. His shooting percentage of late supports that idea.

In his past eight games, Melo is shooting 36.6 percent from the field and made just nine of 44 attempts (20.5 percent) from 3-point range. He had logged more than 40 minutes in nine of the 10 games before his injury in Cleveland.

So maybe Melo should sit this game out? What do you think?

THE STAT PACK: Much has been made of Mike Woodson's decision to keep Amar'e Stoudemire on the bench, particularly with Melo out due to a knee injury.

Regardless of Anthony's status for tonight's game, Stoudemire is likely to continue to come off the bench. And it seems to be working out just fine for both Stoudemire and the Knicks.

Stoudemire tied his season high with 22 points in 31 minutes in Wednesday's win at Detroit, in which the Knicks bench scored 50 points. New York has the third-best bench scoring differential in the NBA. It will likely need similar production tonight to have success against OKC, which has one of the lowest-scoring benches in the NBA.

TOO MANY TURNOVERS: One reason for the Knicks' early-season success was their ability to protect the ball. They averaged fewer than 11 turnovers per game in the first two months of the season. Lately, they've gotten sloppy: In four March games, they are averaging 16 turnovers. They coughed it up 20 times against Detroit on Wednesday. Is this the start of a troubling trend or a blip on the radar?

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