Studs and Duds: Knicks fall to Oklahoma City Thunder on the road

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) moves around Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) during the second quarter at Paycom Center
Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Following a great Christmas Day win over the Milwaukee Bucks, the New York Knicks went on the road to face a young and surging Oklahoma City Thunder team. The highly skilled youth of OKC proved to be too much for the Knicks. Julius Randle tried his best to set the tone, but the new big three of Oklahoma City combined for 94 points en route to a 120–129 win over New York

Studs: Julius Randle turns in his best effort

The All-NBA forward Julius Randle has shown a maturation in his game as of late. The slow starts of the early season usually indicated an overall rough night for Randle, but lately, he has done a phenomenal job being the anchor the New York Knicks need on both sides of the ball every game.

With a 13-point deficit at the end of the first quarter, the Knicks’ first half would make the viewer believe they were the ones coming off a back-to-back, not Oklahoma City. Yet, a second-half surge navigated by Randle saw him score 12 points in the third quarter and finish the contest with 25 points and nine rebounds. 

Studs: Donte DiVincenzo knocks in five triples

Donte DiVincenzo has been the high IQ versatile two-way the Knicks have needed this season. Averaging 13 points over his last six games, he delivered a stellar 17 points and five made threes versus Oklahoma City. The efforts of DiVincenzo have depended on the production that Brunson is bringing to the floor.

A slower night from Brunson offensively, and DiVincenzo stepped up big compared to what was seen on Christmas Day from Brunson as DiVincenzo then only had three points but played excellent two-way basketball. 

Studs: Immanuel Quickley scoring Quickly 

The insertion of Immanuel Quickley is another gear for the New York Knicks. An instant spark off the bench, Quickley scored 17 points in 19 minutes, finishing with 22 points in the game. The talk of “variety” in terms of winning at the highest level makes him one of the most important pieces on the roster.

Knicks faithful see his talent to be a starter, but in doing so you mitigate the option of mix and match that currently exists. Quickley is phenomenal in his role regardless of who is starting. He constantly extends leads and closes in the fourth quarter. 

Duds: The Knicks’ defense turns in another poor performance

The Knicks gave up 129 points to the Thunder, who were on their second night of a back-to-back. A Christmas Day of seemingly tremendous execution on one of the best teams in the NBA, but on the road in OKC, it was nonexistent.

Seeing the capabilities of the Knicks made the poor defensive performances jarring as Oklahoma City shot 54% from the field and 43% from three. The ‘big three’ consisting of SGA, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren combined for 94 points.

Jalen Williams set a career-high, and the Knicks looked gassed in stretches, especially midway through the fourth quarter. 

Duds: RJ Barrett continues to falter

RJ Barrett’s performance on Christmas Day can be seen as a ‘Christmas Miracle’ following his performance in OKC. The fifth-year forward has not been what the Knicks need him to be, and it’s to the point where coming off the bench may suit RJ better until he can string together consecutive big performances.

Barrett has made only 21 of his last 83 three-pointers (25.3%). Barrett pales in comparison to the poise of Jalen Williams, and one promising quarter of basketball won’t get the job done at the highest level. Barrett scored seven points in the second quarter but finished the game with 14 points on 35% from the field and 50% from the free throw line. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the Thunder 

Inconsistencies defensively and particular offensive woes indicate the Knicks have issues beyond what fans see. The social media takeover of “who’s 1A” and “the Knicks should trade for this guy” have been the constant rhetoric when the premier focus should be winning games. How to execute night to night and inject the city with a winning culture.

It starts with Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson as the two pillars of the franchise, and the rest must fall in line. There is no time for egos or forcing looks, especially in games against great teams.

The Knicks have upcoming games against the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers, two young teams, but with the talent of New York, both should be wins for the Knicks. 

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