Thunder come into Madison Square Garden as seven point favorites
The Knicks are the laughing stock of the NBA, and they may be the worst professional sports franchise in America right now in my opinion. In their loss to the Utah Jazz, the Knicks recorded their lowest attendance for a home game since 2006. They have just 36 wins over the last two seasons, and they have failed to make the playoffs for seven straight years. Furthermore, the Knicks have only one playoff series win since the 2000-2001 season. The Knicks may just be the worst pro team in the big four North American sports leagues (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB).
The exact opposite can be said about the Oklahoma City Thunder. Formerly the Seattle Supersonics, the team moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008. Since the Thunder’s inception, 2008 marks the only season where the team has finished the year with a losing record. The Thunder have qualified for the playoffs nine times over the past 12 years, and that number should increase to ten at the end of the regular season since the Thunder are currently the sixth seed in the Western Conference and hold a seven game lead over the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Oklahoma City has been a beacon of success since joining the NBA.
The Thunder once had a roster that was comprised of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook. Unfortunately, fate got in the way, and the Thunder produced zero championships despite that plethora of all-star talent. The final piece of that team, Russell Westbrook, was traded to the Houston Rockets this past summer in exchange for Chris Paul and a slew of draft picks. All-in-all, the trade has looked beneficial for both sides. The Rockets are playing dominant, small-ball style basketball, and the Thunder are still in the playoff hunt and will be better equipped for the NBA Draft when it comes around this off-season.
Tonight’s game between the Knicks and the Thunder marks the beginning of a two game season series between these teams. Ever since moving to Oklahoma City, the Thunder have dominated this matchup. According to landofbasketball.com, the Thunder are 15-6 in 21 games against the Knicks. In fact, the Knicks are 1-5 in their last six games against OKC, with their lone victory coming in December of 2017, so the Knicks basically haven’t beaten the Thunder in three years. The Thunder easily swept the Knicks last year in the two games they played. OKC emerged victorious by final scores of 127-109 and 128-103. Tonight’s margin of victory may not be as large, but I still think the Thunder will come out on top in this one.
Chris Paul is the clear leader of OKC. The ten time NBA All-Star is fourth on the team in scoring and also averages 6.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Not bad for a player that was considered “washed up” by some major media outlets less than a year ago (cough, cough, ESPN, cough). A player that has really stepped his game up for the Thunder this year has been Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The former 2018 first round pick leads the team in scoring with 19.3 points per game! On top of that he also averages 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest this season. The second year man out of Kentucky is proving his worth at the professional level and has given the Thunder a good piece to build around moving forward. Furthermore, both Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder have rejuvenated their careers in Oklahoma City. Schroder is averaging 19 points per game coming off the bench and filling in for Chris Paul, while Danilo Gallinari is putting up 19.2 points per game which is the third highest mark of his entire career! Lastly, the Thunder keep the glass clean thanks to big man Steven Adams. The New Zealand native is right on the cusp of averaging a double-double with 9.4 rebounds and 11 points per game. This team is not blowing anybody away or wowing you with talent, but they are a well-built group from top to bottom that just keeps finding ways to win and remain competitive.
The Thunder just have better pieces than the Knicks. Julius Randle will be good as usual, and RJ Barrett will probably continue his streak of excellent play. However, those two guys alone are not good enough to lift the Knicks to victory. On top of that, the Thunder’s backcourt of Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul is way better than anything the Knicks have in their backcourt. CP3 and SGA will carry the team to victory, and Dennis Schroder will torch the Knicks’ back-ups coming off the bench. I think The Thunder will cover the seven point spread on their way to a comfortable victory.