Preview: Knicks at Thunde
The top two scorers in the NBA will finally meet when Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant host New York and Carmelo Anthony in a nationally televised matinee on Sunday. Anthony was absent due to a sprained ankle when the Thunder crushed the Knicks 123-94 at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day, a result that still stands as the second-best offensive output for Durant's crew. Oklahoma City, which has won eight straight at home, is coming off a rather stunning 103-102 loss at Orlando on Friday in which it blew a 14-point halftime lead and gave up a last-second dunk.
Durant scored 29 points in the loss, which saw the Thunder's scoring production fall significantly in each quarter. Meanwhile, Anthony was busy producing 31 points in a 117-90 home win over Denver, helping the Knicks improve to 11-9 since their 9-21 start. New York tuned up for the visit to Oklahoma City with a 56.5 percent mark from the floor and built a big lead to allow Anthony and other regulars to rest down the stretch.
ABOUT THE KNICKS (20-30): The rout of the Nuggets came amid a storm of speculation surrounding the job status of head coach Mike Woodson, who continued to express confidence in his team despite reports that he will be let go during the upcoming All-Star break. Friday's effort can only help Woodson's cause, as New York showed a balanced attack behind Anthony. Amar'e Stoudemire scored 17 points, J.R. Smith had 13 and three others in addition to Anthony reached double figures, including reserve forward Jeremy Tyler, who also hauled in a career high-tying 11 boards.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (40-12): Oklahoma City received a triple-double from Russell Westbrook in the rout at New York on Christmas, but Westbrook remains sidelined until after the All-Star break with a knee injury. In addition to Durant, Serge Ibaka has continued to pick up more of the scoring load with Westbrook out, collecting 26 more points on 10-of-13 shooting in the loss at Orlando. Ibaka, who had 24 points versus the Knicks in December, is an eye-popping 45-for-66 from the floor in his last five games.
1. Knicks C Tyson Chandler is 18-for-22 from the floor and 4-for-12 from the line over a five-game stretch.
2. The Thunder entered Saturday ranked fifth in the NBA with 19.5 made free throws per game, while the Knicks were last at 14.8.
3. Anthony's 36 points and 12 rebounds lifted New York to a 125-120 win in its previous visit to Oklahoma City last April.
PREDICTION: Thunder 110, Knicks 100