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Saturday, February 8, 2014
W2W4: Knicks at Thunder

By Ian Begley

Here are a few things to keep an eye on during Sunday afternoon’s New York Knicks-Oklahoma City Thunder game:

Slowing KD: How will the Knicks handle Kevin Durant?

Durant’s leading the NBA with a 31-point scoring average. He’s hitting 41 percent of his 3s, handing out a career-high 5.5 assists and pulling down 7.6 rebounds.

Mike Woodson can throw Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith at Durant. No matter who guards him, New York (20-30) will have its hands full.

“Spectacular season,” Anthony said. “From top to bottom.”

Anthony hasn’t been that bad himself. He’s second in the NBA in scoring at 27.4 points per game. Anthony won the scoring title last season, beating Durant in a race that lasted until the final days of the regular season.

If the season ended on Sunday, Durant’s 3.6 points per game lead over Anthony would be the largest gap between first and second in the scoring race since 2003-04, when Tracy McGrady led Peja Stojakovic and Kevin Garnett by 3.8 points.

Pick-and-roll pressure: One key for the Knicks on Sunday is trying to slow down the Thunder pick-and-roll.

If the numbers are to be believed, that could be an issue for New York.

Woodson’s Knicks are the worst team at defending the pick-and-roll. Ball handlers are scoring a league-high 42.1 percent of the time against New York. The roll man is scoring a league-high 57.4 percent of the time.

The Thunder ball handlers -- think Durant and Reggie Jackson -- rank sixth in score percentage on pick-and-roll plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Sharing the scoring burden: In order to beat OKC, which is coming off a road loss to the Orlando Magic, the Knicks will need strong scoring from Anthony’s supporting cast. Smith has delivered on that end lately, averaging 18.2 points on 46 percent shooting in his past 11 games.

The Knicks’ starting shooting guard, Shumpert, has had an uneven season on offense.

He’s scored in single digits in 12 of his past 13 games and is averaging 5.4 points on 30 percent shooting in that span. He’s 4-for-17 from the field in the past three games since returning from a left shoulder sprain.

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