Didn’t see this coming. Let’s start with the Knicks.
Straight up, they were hitting shots. If you’re a fast-moving team that takes a lot of shots (read: threes), and you shoot 50 percent or more from the field (40-80, check) and 50 percent or more from three (16-24! check), you’ve got a pretty strong chance at winning. Danilo Gallinari got hot early, and put in 21 first-half points (24 total). Even when he was quiet in the second half, it was obvious how important his play is to the team—when his shot’s falling, the constant threat of him being able to drain the longball helps New York spread the floor. But, we’ve still only seen that for a single half this season, so who knows what’s to come. D’Antoni went to a backcourt of Toney Douglas and Raymond Felton for a few large stretches of time (also: this), and it worked perfectly—TD had a career-high 30 points (and 4 steals; defense?!!) while Felton put up an efficient and relatively quiet 20 point, 10 assist, 5 rebound performance. Amar’e Stoudemire had a decent line with 14 points and 8 rebounds, but his turnover problems continued—he had an unexplainable 8, raising his per-game average to 5.67. I don’t get it. He’s playing as if he has no idea he was my first-round fantasy pick, for some reason.
The Bulls, meanwhile, were a different story. I had a couple of observations ready, and then they came out in the fourth quarter and (might have) proved them both wrong. Let’s list ’em anyway:
–Observation: They have little-to-no depth, and DRose has the first and last word in regards to their success. They have no suitable backup for him, and even when he’s on the floor, if he goes quiet, so does Chicago.
–Observation: They have a massive hole at shooting guard, and can’t win games consistently with such a gap in their roster.
And then, look what happened. The Bulls made their only run of the game early in the fourth quarter with Rose on the bench, and received a huge boost during that time period from Kyle Korver, who was filling in at the two. So yeah, I have no idea. I’m gonna chalk both of those up as flukes—they were kinda due for a run (the Knicks are notoriously bad at holding leads), while Korver’s great play was really just him hitting some open threes, and he’ll still struggle to guard the more athletic swingmen, leaving their hole at SG agape. But maybe I’m wrong, and maybe that fourth quarter should’ve proved the haters wrong too. What do you guys think?
Besides that, though, some solid showings from the Bulls. Rose had 24 points and 14 assists, though he sat out during valuable fourth quarter minutes while the second string’s momentum was flowing. Also: Joakim Noah went for 12 points and 13 boards; Taj Gibson had 18 and 10; and the aforementioned Korver put in 18 points and 4 threes.
Sure, a whole bunch of talent might’ve moved east this summer, but the Western Conference is still gonna provide some incredible competition come next May. And last night was proof. These two battled all the way through regulation, and a couple of clutch Russell Westbrook jumpers and a missed potential-buzzer beater by Brandon Roy sent this one into OT. But OKC just made more plays, getting a few buckets and hitting some clutch free throws to take this one home. Kevin Durant was solid—he scored 28 and played all but 32 seconds of the game—but I really can’t say enough about Westbrook’s play. He grabbed huge rebounds, made nice passes, nailed important free throws, and did everything you’d want out of young, rising star—a title we can now safely give this dude. The Blazers used their standard well-balanced attack, and had six players in double figures, but Andre Miller (16 points, 11 assists) was controlling the ball and essentially led the squad through the fourth and into overtime.
Performance of the Night: Toney Douglas: 30 points, 5 threes, 4 assists, 4 steals, 1 rebound.
Moment of the Night: Down four with the clock expiring in OT, Portland’s Armon Johnson jogged up the court, and hit a three. “OHHH!” Kevin Harlan exclaimed. Oh, wait. Right. Don’t worry, I was never very good at math either. But still. Oof.