Lost It Late. Oklahoma City 129 NY 120

It wasn’t a bad loss — but it was a loss.

The Knicks withstood an early offensive explosion by the high-flying Oklahoma City Thunder, and made it a razor-close game in the 4th quarter — tying the game late in the 3rd, and were 1 point behind with 10 minutes left, and 5 points behind with 4:37 left.

But the Knicks couldn’t hit enough shots down the stretch, and Oklahoma did. RJ Barrett missed three 3’s in the 4th that killed the Knicks momentum, before hitting one when it was too late.

Meanwhile unsung Thunder Jalen Williams hit almost every shot he took en route to 36 pts on 13-17 shooting (5-5 from 3), and Chet Holmgren (22 pts) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (36 pts) scored when he didn’t.

But the real reason the Knicks lost was turnovers — they coughed the ball up 18 times; Oklahoma only 4 times. The Knicks were able to match the Thunder from the 3-pt line: NY was 14-34 from 3; Okla was 14-32.

“We started slowly; we were playing from behind,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “I thought we had pretty good resolve; we didn’t let it get away from us. We couldn’t finish it in the end. I thought our turnovers hurt us. Some of that is, they’re coming after the ball, and if you’re not getting the call you can get frustrated. And the turnovers put them into the open floor; that gave them the cushion.”

“They fly around pretty good; they’re a big steal team, and then he (Chet Holmgren) is there protecting at the rim,” said Thibs. “Overall I thought we made a lot of good plays, we scored 120 points; but the turnovers hurt us. We had good rhythm on 3’s, creating those shots; we got to the line 30 times. I have to look at the film but I thought Jalen (Brunson) got hit a lot and should have been at the line a lot more than he was.”

NY falls to 17-13. Oklahoma goes to 20-9.

1. Oklahoma Jumps Out to 17 Pt Lead

The Thunder raced out to a 38-25 lead at the end of the 1st quarter, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was snaking his way to the basket and scoring in his usual variety of ways, behind a loud Oklahoma City home crowd.

Gilgeous-Alexander was doing all of his damage from 2-pt range — slithering inside in all kinds of ways and hitting jumpers.

“Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plays to his strengths, rarely settles, gets to where he wants to get which is usually in the lane and does a great job using his size/upper body strength and footwork to finish, create space or contact,” summed up NBA Analyst Ross Krienes. “Also, finds the open man, defends and stuffs a stat sheet.”

The Thunder continued their up-temp offense in the 2nd quarter, going up by 17 points with 9 minutes left..

2. Knicks Take Control of Game’s Tempo

Not this time. This Knick team took control of the tempo of the game.

Quentin Grimes hit a big 3, then Immanuel Quickley hit a drive and a 3, and RJ Barrett made consecutive drives sandwiching a drive for free throws, and NY was 8 down.

Immanuel Quickley hit a 3 and NY was within 5. A Brunson 3 pulled NY to within 4 with 4 minutes left in the half.

Oklahoma’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander fired back as did Jalen Williams and Okla took a 9-pt halftime lead.

But the Knicks had been able to slow the game down, and take command of the tempo.

3. Knicks Tie It in the 3rd

It was more of the same in the 3rd, as the Knicks whittled down the Oklahoma lead and tie the game 81-81 with 5:30 left on a Josh Hart jumper.

Julius Randle was powering inside, as he did all evening for 25 pts on 7-15 shooting (11-13 in free throws) and 9 rebounds.

“Make yourself a weapon and put your defender on their heels before ever putting the ball on the floor,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “Julius Randle does a good job catching in triple-threat, use of a shot fake, jab step, doesn’t settle and gets to the rim along with using his strength to finish through contact.”

Jalen Brunson was persevering — leading the Knicks offense — but getting pummeled all night by Luguentz Dort, who plays a physical game of defense — and the refs were letting them play.

Oklahoma was able to take a 4-pt lead heading into the 4th on more Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring late in the period but overall the Knicks only allowed Oklahoma 24 points in the 3rd quarter.

4. Barrett Misses Key 3’s Early in 4th

And so it became a dogfight for the first part of the 4th — but the Knicks momentum was hurt by RJ Barrett missing a drive and 2 open 3’s from the corner.

Chet Holmgren scored inside and hit a 3 down the other end and NY was down 9.

Barrett was pulled for rest shortly after missing the second 3 with NY down 9 with 7 minutes left.

5. Barrett In Over Quickley & DiVincenzo at End

Quickley hit a 3 and a deuce and Brunson hit a driving jumper to pull NY to within 5 — but Jalen Williams countered to put Okla up 7 with 4 minutes left when Barrett was brought back in to replace Quickley.

It was an interesting move by Thibs, as Quickley was hot, and Donte DiVincenzo had lit up the scoreboard earlier in the game — DiVincenzo had 17 points on 6-10 shooting (5-9 from 3).

Barrett immediately turned the ball over — not his fault, an inbounds pass that Okla had tight coverage on. But then Barrett took and missed another open 3 from the corner and Jalen Williams hit a 3 down the other end and Okla was up 10 with 3 minutes left.

Jalen Williams hit another 3 to give Okla a 13-pt lead but Barrett — finally — countered with a 3 to pull NY to within 10 with 2 minutes left but it was too little too late as the game slipped away.

Other than the missed 3’s in the 4th, Barrett did not have a bad overall game — he scored 14 pts on 5-14 shooting (1-7 from 3) with 4 rebounds and 4 assists (but he did have 5 turnovers). He was called for an offensive foul early in the 4th when clearly his defender had his feet moving.

“You’re going to finish with different guys; it’s what the game needs,” said Thibs afterwards. “Sometimes it’s matchups. Sometimes it’s someone’s got it going. Sometimes you need size; sometimes its the switching that you’re doing. You’re asking guys to sacrifice because you can only put 5 guys out there. Because of who they had on the floor — they have length with their wings — so you’re going to be doing some switching, so you’re trying to matchup that way.”

Isaiah Hartenstein did a good job defending the 7’1 Chet Holmgren but this was a game where the Knicks couldn’t also used Mitchell Robinson.

The Boxscore


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