Last season the Knicks were 1-1 versus the Thunder. They did not face the Thunder with Carmelo Anthony last season and they will not face them with Anthony tonight. He is out with a sprained ankle.
Here’s what to watch for:
- Bill Walker, yes that Bill Walker, will start in place of Melo. Walker can only shoot 3’s and he plays no defense. I think D’Antoni would be smart to match Fields up on Durant and stick Walker on Sefolosha/Harden. I think with Walker on him, Durant could score 70 tonight.
- How do the Knicks compensate for Melo’s absence on offense? Melo this year has accounted for a 34.4% usage rate in the Knicks offense. If Bill Walker records 34.4% usage rate tonight, I’ll probably shoot myself in the head. The ball needs to moved in the offense tonight. I think in order to win, the Knicks will have to improve on their 3 point shooting. The Knicks have shot 31% from outside the arc this season. Melo is shooting 37% from 3 which shows how poor the rest of the team has been. Fields, Shumpert and Douglas have shot 22% 25% and 26% from 3 respectively.
- Amar’e must dominate tonight. In order for the Knicks to win tonight, Amar’e must go for an efficient 30 point game. The Knicks need him to play like the Amar’e of last season. His test tonight is Serge Ibaka who can be had. While Ibaka is athletic, he can be beaten on the pick and roll and he’s been beat on isolations 7 of 13 times this season. If Amar’e can snap out of his funk tonight, he should have a good game.
- How does Shumpert bounce back? Shumpert played his worst game of the year in Memphis, shooting rapidly in a 5/20 performance. Tonight he faces Russell Westbrook who is a very good defensive point guard. Shumpert must continue to play well on defense and improve his game offensively. Not only does he need to shoot less but he needs to penetrate and kick more often. His athleticism allows him to get to the rim whenever he wants but he needs to dish the ball more to create open mid-range and 3 point opportunities.