Pre-Game Q & A With Thunder Ballers Blog

Last night, in the loss to the Spurs, the Knicks looked far more aggressive and energetic than they had the previous four games.  Still, they did not look cohesive and sharp enough to stop their losing streak from stretching to five.  Fanatics had a great time discussing the game and gawking at the cheerleaders in the Live Blog Event which was attended by Peaceman, Lives, DLT, Aaron, Statesman and three friends from Project Spurs : JMatt Hicks, Paul and Jeff. 

Wilson’s Chandler’s recent play is most reflective of the Knicks’ current performances.  Against the Spurs,  Chandler looked lost as he was returned to his sixth man role by Coach Mike D’Antoni.   Chandler was clearly thrown off, first by returning to the bench and previously by the return of teammate Danilo Gallinari to the starting line-up; he scored an abysmal 6 points against the Spurs on 3 for 10 shooting.  D’Antoni refuses to face the truth that Chandler’s performance is more consistent throughout the course of a game than Gallo’s.  The Knicks have not won since Gallo’s return to the starting line-up and they appear sluggish.   Replacing Chandler with Rony Turiaf who responded with 10 points and 10 boards did not get the job done.  Gallo contributed only 2 rebounds and one assists to go with his 16 points on 5-13 shooting.  It is likely that the Knicks play will not improve Chandler’s role doesn’t stabilize and Gallo is not sent to the bench as he should have been in the beginning of the year.

Tonight the Knicks face another test against the young Oklahoma City Thunder (27-15). We’re hoping that the Thunder are the medicine that cures our current woes instead of more blockage for our arteries.  In December, 2010, the Knicks handled the Thunder 112-98 holding Durant’s wranglers to 39% shooting overall and 17% from the three point line as Westbrook coughed up the ball four times. Often they look relatively incompetent, but we know that’s not who they are most of the time.  To learn more about what we can expect this time from the Thunder, we interviewed  sports reporter Rob Kelley who covers the Thunder for his fantastic blog, Thunder Ballers.  Check out his blog and our response to his questions about how the Knicks may handle his squad tonight at Gameday Interview With a True “Knick Fanatic.”

Knicks Fanatics Blog: After an impressive showing in last year’s playoff, the Thunder don’t seem as impressive as they should be as a unit. How would you assess the Thunder (27-15) at the midway point of the season?

Rob Kelley, Thunder Ballers: This is still a very young team that may have had too high of expectations placed upon them after last year’s first round series with the Lakers. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are turning into solid leaders, but they cannot do it all by themselves. They need a more consistent offensive showing from the rest of the starters, but more importantly, they need to improve on defense if they are going to take the next step forward. This is still the 3rd best team in the Western Conference, and clinching home court advantage in at least the first round will be very important to this team’s success in the playoffs.

KFB: The Thunder have lost two games in a row and when we last played them they appeared woeful offensively. What, if anything will change their offensive production in this game?

Rob Kelley: Westbrook has been playing great lately, and he is the catalyst to this team. When he gets everyone involved, then this team can put up points in quick spurts. But they will also need more production from players such as Nenad Kristic, Thabo Sefolosha and Jeff Green in the starting lineup. James Harden has been nice off the bench, but Westbrook and Durant need more help on the offensive end of the court.

KFB:  What should we expect from the Thunder defensively in order to limit the Knicks scoring punch?

Rob Kelley:  Your guess is good as mine at this point, and that is what truly worries me. This team is under-performing defensively – there is no doubt. They need to fix that if they are going to advance past the first round of the playoffs this season. The Knicks are the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference, and the Thunder may struggle to limit their offensive production. Amar’e Stoudamire scares me the most, because the Thunder struggle with big men who can score. Stoudamire certainly qualifies as one of them. Jeff Green and Nednad Kristic will have a very difficult time stopping him. I would almost rather see Serge Ibaka try and cover him at some point.

KFB: Although Thabo Sefalosha is probably a better fit against Stoudemire to start the game, aren’t the Thunder going to be better when the dynamic James Harden gets an opportunity to start?

Rob Kelley: I have been hoping for a couple of lineup changes recently, but Scott Brooks continues to say that he is not adjusting the starting five as of now. I would like to see Harden and Ibaka crack the starting lineup, even if that means playing small ball at times.

KFB:  What should Knicks fans look for in tonight’s game?

Rob Kelley: An offensive shoot-out from both teams. This one could come down to the team who has the ball last will win. It will also be one of the higher scoring games for both teams as of late.