Oklahoma City – Thunder hosted the Knicks tonight in the last game of 2021 for them after a brief 2 game western road trip. They came into tonight losers of the last two and looked to end the year on a high note.
Both teams came into the game missing key guys due to being in Covid protocols but the Knicks came in as winners of their last three. It seemed it would be a tougher task for them because they were missing Julius Randle and Derrick Rose who are both big contributors to their success while the Thunder still had their two best players playing and had a guy in Aaron Wiggins who has been their second best player over the last 4 games.
That proved to be true because the Knicks struggled to score all night without those two key guys.
The game started off a little sloppy and that’s pretty much how the game went the whole night. Although it wasn’t a typical sloppy game with lots of turnovers. Just a lot of missed shots and neither team scoring 100.
The Thunder ended up winning the game 95-80 in somewhat ugly fashion.
Here are the 3 reasons they won:
1) Hot From Downtown
The Thunder hit 18 threes tonight which is tied for the most they’ve hit in a game all season. The shot 18-43 (41.9%) which is the 4th best they’ve shot from downtown this season. They came into the game hot from there and didn’t cool off. At first, it seemed like they were going to cool and but still settle for lots of threes but that wasn’t the case. Most of the threes were due to driving and kicking. And although they did take more threes than shots in the paint and only one more two pointer than threes, it didn’t seem like they were settling at all. That type of shot profile usually doesn’t win you many games but luckily the Thunder had one of their best nights from distance all season. They wren also a +30 from three so that helps a lot when your shot profile isn’t the best.
The Knicks only had 80 points tonight. Yes, you read that right and no this isn’t a 1990s or early 2000s game. Holding a team to only 80 in today’s NBA is pretty crazy. That’s how good the Thunder defense was tonight and it’s the biggest reason they won. That’s 25 points under their season average. Yes the Knicks were missing two of their key guys but to limit them to not only under 100 but under 90 is really impressive. They were very active on that end and made it extremely hard for the Knicks to get going. Most of their shots were contested and more impressive is the Thunder didn’t allow them to get going in the paint. Only 36 points there. Even better, the Knicks shot 37% which is tied for their 3rd worst field goal percentage all season. They also held them to 19.5% from three which is the worst they’ve shot from distance all season. The Thunder played lights out on defense and it’s beginning to look like the defense we saw at the beginning of the season is back.
3) Protected The Ball
Only 10 turnovers tonight for the Thunder. That is good enough for the 3rd least they’ve turned the ball over this season. Even better, those 10 turnovers only led to 8 points for the Knicks. It was a pretty ugly game and it was really important for the Thunder to not give the Knicks extra possessions to get going because that could have easily got their offense going. Not having their starting PG makes it even more impressive. Their offense wasn’t all the way there tonight either so that made protecting the ball that much more important. Great way to end the year.
The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who had an off night offensively but still put up 23 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. Aaron Wiggins had another solid game with and efficient 13 points and 4 rebounds while Ty Jerome provided a much needed spark off the bench with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. Isaiah Roby had a solid game in the start with 8 points and 9 rebounds Kenrich Williams added 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists of the bench.
The team will look to get their first win of 2022 when they take on the Mavericks on Sunday night.
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