Saturday, April 6, 2013
W2W4: Knicks at Thunder
By Jared Zwerling
The Knicks could get their 50th win of the season Sunday -- their highest mark since 1999-2000 -- but they'll have to take out the West-leading Thunder (56-20). Even tougher, the Knicks could be without Kenyon Martin (sore left knee) and Marcus Camby (left plantar fasciitis), and the Thunder's starting frontcourt features Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.
Here are three main things to watch for Sunday, starting at 1 p.m. ET on ABC:
1. Kevin Durant vs. Carmelo Anthony. The longtime friends and Olympic teammates are No 1. and No. 2 in scoring, respectively, separated by only a fraction of a point per game (Durant at 28.4 and Anthony at 28.3). Of course, Melo has been on another planet lately, scoring 40-plus points in three consecutive games -- joining only Bernard King in that company in Knicks' history -- and he has shot better than 60 percent from the field in each one. Melo has always played big against Durant, so much so that he has an 11-1 record against him. The big stage is set for Sunday.
2. However, the Knicks' lack of size is an issue. They could be without five big men: Martin, Camby, Amar'e Stoudemire, Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas, leaving Tyson Chandler all alone in the middle. Defensively, the Knicks could struggle at times cutting off Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder's interior threats all attacking the paint from different angles. The points-in-the-paint margin could be the difference in the game.
One key for the Knicks is limiting the Thunder's second-chance opportunities by attacking the glass. Anthony and J.R. Smith's combining for 24 rebounds Friday night against the Bucks came in handy to help out Chandler (10 boards). But the Knicks will have to be careful about not committing too far inside when shots go up. That's because Westbrook is a one-man fast-break machine when either he grabs rebounds himself or his teammates find him leaking out down the court. His pull-up jump shot in transition is nearly unstoppable.
3. Who will be that third (or fourth) scorer after Anthony and Smith?Iman Shumpert shot 0-for-7 from the field against the Bucks, Raymond Felton had nine points (five fewer than his season average) and Steve Novak was 0-for-3 from 3-point range. To beat the Thunder, as Mike Woodson always says, "It's going to take a total team effort."