“They were impressive. They were long and they got after us. I think we were a little shocked at first and we couldn’t get our footing.” – Mike D’Antoni
“He [Kevin Durant] had 30 points off of 14 shots. Whenever you get to the line like that you are in a good groove and you have to attack the basket. Kevin has great balance, being able to shoot the ball and drive.” – Al Harrington
“He’s a guy that can score in a variety of ways and gets a high volume of shots. He gets to the foul line, and that’s where he killed us tonight.” – David Lee
Take note Knicks. This is “Team Building 101″ aced. For three years, I have been extolling the Oklahoma City Thunder for being the model for building a team the right way, through drafting youth and shaping a team with free agents and traded pieces that fit into a strong defensive philosophy. Thunder General Manager Sam Presti, the wunderkind who earned and learned his chops in the San Antonio Spurs organization, has put a product on the floor that has joined the elite teams in the NBA — that was demonstrated in the Thunder’s 106-88 drubbing of the Knicks.
It all began with the drafting and subsequent development of Kevin Durant (2d Pick overall) and Jeff Green (5th pick overall) in June 2007. Last night, both players exposed the Knicks’ weakness in defending and scoring on a long front court that is willing to run consistently, pound the ball, inside and get back on defense. Durant, who had 15 points in the first quarter, scored 30 in 33 minutes and added five rebounds, three assists and two blocks for good measure. Although, Green did not have a stellar offensive night, only scoring nine points, he had an excellent all-round game as he contributed timely put-backs, seven rebounds, two assists, three steals and one block and excellent defensive coverage.
The Thunder front line seemed to give David Lee some trouble as he was unable to produce on the offensive end (11 points on 5-18 shooting) and to keep up on the defensive side. Gallinari was also ineffective going 0-7 in 32 minutes. Although he and Lee combined for 21 rebounds, they were unable to contain the Thunder who shot 47% compared to the Knicks 38%.
The team’s engine however was its guard corp led by 6′-3″ Russell Westbrook (drafted 4th overall in 2008) who scored 17 points on 7-11 shooting in only 25 minutes. Westbrook, Eric Maynor (20th pick by Utah in 2009 draft, picked up in December 2009 for Matt Harpring’s contract and an 8 year-old draft pick rights) and James Harden (drafted 3rd in 2009 draft) and Thabo Sefolosha (acquired from Bulls in February 2009) were too much on both ends for the Knicks compliment of Nate Robinson (19 points and 3 assists) and Chris Duhon (3 points on 0-8 shooting and 3 assists).
The bottom line was that the Thunder defensive intensity — the speed, communication, switching, length, obstructing the path to the basket — was overwhelmingly efficient.
W-L 3-2 Point Differential +24