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Knicks Search For Second Consecutive Win Against Western Conference

The last game before the All-Star Game features a match up with triple-double machine Russell Westbrook

Photo: Jim McIsaac

The Knicks (23–33) will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (31–25) tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder are 4–6 in their last ten games, stumbling into the break a bit. Russell Westbrook is doing Russell Westbrook things, but he only has two triple-doubles in his last eight games. Come on, Russ, step your game up!

A few thoughts:

  • The Knicks will be without Joakim Noah again, which will result in another start from wunderkind Willy Hernangómez. Hernangomez was named to the Rising Stars roster as a replacement for Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay.
  • This is the last Knicks game before the All-Star break. I think we could all use a week off from our favorite circus in town. They’ll be off until next Thursday, when they’ll travel to Cleveland and take on LeBron “How am I second in the league in minutes per game?” James.
  • Speaking of Mr. Hernangomez, he is averaging 11.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in the month of February. Jeff Hornacek finally seems comfortable giving him the necessary burn to let him run wild. If the Knicks keep falling down the standings and the playoffs become the mirage that we all believe they will be, watching Willy pump-fake fools throughout March and April during the stretch run will be something to look forward to.
  • Stupid side note, but this is the ninth season that the Oklahoma City Thunder have been a thing. I don’t know about the masses, but it feels like a lifetime ago that the Seattle Supersonics were an actual team. Way longer than nine years.
  • Kristaps Porzingis is slowly rounding back into form, looking like the KP that we all know and love. He’s shooting 42.9 percent from deep in February. The Thunder fall in the middle of the pack in terms of three-point defense, so we’ll see if KP can continue to cook from downtown. KP should be able to take advantage against Domantas Sabonis and anyone else that the Thunder task with guarding the unicorn.
Photo: Jim McIsaac
  • Russell. Freaking. Westbrook. The Knicks have nobody to guard point guards normally, but Westbrook is a completely different animal. He dropped a triple-double on the Knicks the last time these two met, and will look to do so again tonight. He is coming off of potentially his worst game of the year, so something tells me he’s going to come out on a mission. Good luck and godspeed, Derrick Rose, Lance Thomas, and Brandon Jennings.
  • The Knicks are tied for third in the NBA in rebounding percentage. Coincidentally, their counterparts in third place are the Oklahoma City Thunder. The rebounding battle should prove to be a big tipping point tonight. With Enes Kanter out, the Thunder have one less big to bang down low and do the dirty work. Hernangómez, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kyle O’Quinn, however, will have their hands full with the likes of Steven Adams and Westbrook.
  • The Thunder are not as unbeatable as they once were. Going to Chesapeake used to be a death sentence, a date with two of the best players in the NBA. Now, with Westbrook playing the role of both Batman and Robin (all due respect to Victor Oladipo), Oklahoma City does not represent the same type of challenge. Sure, they’re 19–8 at home, but they are vulnerable right now. The Knicks could certainly end up with a victory here and go into the All-Star break feeling better about themselves. And if they lose:

Tip at 9:30pm ET on ESPN.

Matt Spendley, senior writer

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