By Chad Waters
The Thunder (4-4) overcame a slow start, ending the Knicks’ (5-4) three-game winning streak after defeating New York 101-89 inside Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
Al Horford was the only offense early on for the Thunder, scoring OKC’s first seven points. OKC scored just two points in the first five minutes and shot 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) in the first quarter. Along with Horford’s seven points, Mike Muscala and Theo Maledon were the only other Thunder players to score in the first 12 minutes as OKC trailed the Knicks 24-15 after the opening quarter.
There wasn’t much improvement early on in the second quarter for the Thunder. But OKC closed out strong after making five of its last six shots. The Knicks managed just 18 points in the second quarter, allowing the Thunder to tie the game at the half, 42-42.
Horford and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were the only Thunder starters to score in the first half. Horford shot 6-of-9 in the first half but went cold in the second half, missing all six of his shots to finish with 15 points.
SGA had back-to-back big third quarters for the Thunder, this time shooting 6-of-7 for 12 points in the third quarter. The Thunder opened a nine-point lead before Austin Rivers buzzer-beating three cut it to six, 69-63. OKC went on an 11-3 run in the fourth, after an SGA three gave the Thunder their largest lead, 89-76. The Thunder scored 32 points in the final quarter, and held an opponent under 90 points for the first time this season.
Aside from SGA and Horford’s first half, it was a rough day for OKC’s starters. Darius Bazley (4 points), Luguentz Dort (5 points), and George Hill (4 points) combined for just 13 points while SGA carried the starting lineup with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. SGA made all three of his 3-point attempts and shot 9-of-14 overall. Hamidou Diallo scored a season-high 23 points and grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds against the Knicks.
The Knick’s leading scorer on the season, Julius Randle, sat out most of the second quarter after picking up his third foul with eight minutes left until halftime. Randle entered the locker room at halftime scoreless with just two shot attempts. However, Randle finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. But it didn’t come easy for Randle or anyone else on the Knicks as the team shot just 26 percent overall. RJ Barrett scored a team-high 19 points for the Knicks on 7-of-21 shooting.
Thunder rookie Aleksej Pokusevski returned against the Knicks after missing the last two games with a concussion. Pokusevski scored seven points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. The 7-footer made his second 3-pointer of the season in 19 attempts.
All four of OKC’s wins have come on the road this season, with three of its wins coming on this current six-game road trip. The 13-day road trip comes to an end against the Brooklyn Nets (5-5) on Sunday.