The New York Knicks outscored the Oklahoma City Thunder by 20 points in the second half to prevent OKC from picking up its second win of the second half of the season.
Oklahoma City lost 119-97 in a game without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Darius Bazley.
Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault threw out unusual lineup combinations as Oklahoma City continues trying to learn more about its roster. This included using Lu Dort as the primary playmaker for long stretches and even playing the group of bigs Al Horford, Aleksej Pokusevski and Moses Brown, who range from 6-foot-9 to 7-foot-2, all on the court at the same time.
Here are five takeaways from the loss.
Knicks: No. 1 in defense
The New York Knicks allow the fewest point per game. They limit opponents to the lowest field goal and 3-point percentage. They give up the third fewest assists, the third-fewest fast break points and the third-fewest points in the paint. That was clear on Saturday afternoon, particularly in the second half. “They did a good job of getting into us defensively. They started picking us up full court, they started pressing our catches out, making it harder for us to get open,” said big Isaiah Roby. “They definitely turned up the intensity.” The Thunder shot a strong 48.7% from the field, but they only attempted 76 shots and made only eight of the 32 3-pointers they attempted. Oklahoma City managed just two fast break points, three second chance points and were outscored 18-10 off turnovers.
Lu Dort on the ball
Without Gilgeous-Alexander in the game, Lu Dort played a lot more on-ball. Instead of staying around the 3-point line to spread the court like normal, he used this to create offense and get to the line. Dort went 10-for-10 from the charity stripe, which set a career high for both free throws made and attempted in a game. In fact, about half the free throws the Thunder took as a team (21) came from Dort. “I told myself to just be aggressive,” he said. “Get into the rim.” He finished the game with 14 points. He also had six rebounds and five assists. “Obviously he slides into kind of a complementary role when we’re playing our full deck with Shai, but tonight allowed him to really play with the ball and make plays,” Daigneault said. “Going into the game we talked about that and that was a high priority, and I thought that looked pretty good.”
Moses Brown gets 27 minutes
Say hello to a future fan-favorite. For the second game in a row, Moses Brown led the team in rebounds. He had nine points on five shots and played a career-high 27 minutes. Brown started the second half and played about eight fourth-quarter minutes. “It’s only his second real game of NBA minutes, and he continues to be pretty productive and a factor,” Daigneault said. “It was interesting to see the amount of bodies that they committed to him on the offensive glass.” On Thursday, Brown had five offensive rebounds. He had just two against the Knicks, and that’s because they appeared to have made it a priority to prevent him from grabbing those boards for second-chance opportunities. Brown dominated the G League circuit, averaging 18.5 points, 13.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 26.4 minutes per game. He has shown that improvement since returning to the Thunder, setting a career-high in points in back-to-back games and recording more rebounds in both of these games since the All-Star break than in any prior. https://twitter.com/NBATV/status/1370822724503830529 https://twitter.com/NBATV/status/1370825262300983299
Aleksej Pokusevski can’t repeat performance
The Thunder’s scoring output looked very spread out. Of the nine players who stepped on the court, seven scored double-digit points. Brown had nine. The outlier was Pokusevski, who scored four. The rookie was unable to replicate the strong performance he had on Thursday, when he posted career-highs in points and rebounds. the Knicks game was a disappointing performance from an offensive standpoint — Pokusevski’s 11 shots were a team-high, but his four points were the fewest on the team. He hit two shots and went 0-for-6 from deep. There will be plenty of up and own stretches for Pokusevski this season. This week, he wasn’t able to post an “up” performance over consecutive games.
RJ Barrett and Julius Randle go off
Julius Randle, fresh off his first All-Star appearance, posted a triple-double in the Knicks’ win over the Thunder. The forward went off for 26 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists on 8-for-15 shooting in 39 minutes of play. The other young Knicks rising star, RJ Barrett, scored a career-high 32 points. Oklahoma City got a first-hand look at the two main contributors who are driving the Knicks toward a playoff spot. Their versatility is tough to stop, and they were too much for the Thunder to overcome. OKC fell to 16-22 on the season while New York improved to 20-19.