The New York Knicks struggled to make shots sans their top three playmakers.
Without Julius Randle (health and safety protocols), Kemba Walker (sore left knee), and Derrick Rose (ankle surgery), RJ Barrett led the Knicks attack. Still, he didn’t muster enough support as they fell to the hot-shooting Oklahoma City Thunder, 90-85, Friday night at Paycom Center.
For the second straight New Year’s eve, the Knicks turned cold from the outside.
Last year in Tampa, the Knicks shot 3 for 36 from downtown and missed 20 three-pointers in a row at one ugly stretch. They lost that game, 100-83, to the Toronto Raptors, who notched their first win at their expense. The Knicks’ starters bricked all their 23 three-point attempts becoming the first starting five with the most misses without a make all-time, per ESPN Stats & Info.
There was an uncanny resemblance of that cold shooting night in Oklahoma City. Against the Thunder, they were 8 for 41 from deep, with the starters going 3 for 20.
As cold as the Knicks were, the Thunder were the exact opposite.
The home team hit a season-high-tying 18 3s on a sizzling 41.9 percent clip.
Barrett barrelled his way to 26 points on 10 of 20 shooting in a showdown with fellow Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who had 23. But the difference is Gilgeous-Alexander got plenty of support.
Aaron Wiggins, who worked out with the Knicks last summer, continued his solid run with 13 points on 5 of 8 shots. It was his fourth straight double-digit scoring game.
The Knicks’ second unit, a position of strength all season, got outscored 43-30. Aleksej Pokusevski’s 11 points led Oklahoma City’s bench mob.
Obi Toppin, who started for Randle, produced only five points — all in the first half — and added seven rebounds and one assist against one turnover in 27 minutes.
Rookie Miles McBride started for Walker, a last-minute scratch because of a sore left knee.
“I don’t know [how serious the injury is], because he started his warm-up, and then he stopped. And then Anthony [Goenaga] was looking at him and just felt it, you know, let’s get [knee] examined, and then we’ll go from there,” Thibodeau said after the New Year eve’s loss.
McBride was one of the many Knicks players who struggled offensively.
The Knicks had great looks, but the shots didn’t fall. They reportedly didn’t have a shootaround as a precaution due to the ravaging COVID-19.
McBride missed five of six three-point tries. Barrett went 1 of 8 from downtown. Evan Fournier couldn’t shake off the sore ankle that held him against Washington. The French gunner struggled in his return, sinking only one of his five three-point attempts.
The Knicks cut the Thunder’s lead to three, 74-71, early in the fourth quarter. But Pokusevski hit a three-pointer that triggered a 10-0 Thunder run to pull away.
The loss snapped the Knicks’ three-game win streak and fell to 17-19. They will cap their three-game road trip in Toronto on Sunday.
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