OKLAHOMA CITY -- Think of this occasion, without Carmelo Anthony, as one of those inevitable inclement nights. You know, into each Knicks season, some rain must fall. The trouble for them was that the Thunder can strike like lightning.
Before the Knicks knew what hit them late in the second quarter Saturday night, the Thunder turned a competitive game into a rout. It wound up being a breezy 104-92 win for the Thunder, which did all the things the Knicks wanted to do and struck with the subtlety of an electrical storm: 70 points in the first half.
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"We started off well, we started off with great intensity. We were very focused. But we let those guys get comfortable," Amar'e Stoudemire said after being held to 14 points and 7-for-19 shooting by a defense with the liberty to focus on him.
That was no match for the 28 points in 28 minutes by the Thunder's Kevin Durant, who didn't have to worry about Anthony on the defensive end. He made 10 of his 13 shots, then rested the whole fourth quarter.
Said Mike D'Antoni, "They're good athletically, they were fresh and they took it to us."
It looked like a law of nature, the way the Thunder (11-2) used a 12-0 run in a 2:01 span late in the second quarter; the way they held a 70-47 lead at intermission; the way they kept playing better than anyone else in the league.
Point guard Russell Westbrook scored 21 points and accentuated a couple of his shots by blowing on his forefinger as if it were a hot pistol. James Harden, a bench player who caused D'Antoni to change his starting lineup (putting Mike Bibby alongside Iman Shumpert so Landry Fields could come off the bench to guard Harden), scored 24 points and shot 8-for-12.
Things weren't easy but not impossible for the Knicks, who came out with more energy and better ball movement than they had in Memphis Thursday night. Then, boom went the Thunder.
"You get a young team like that that's comfortable out there, shooting open shots, just relaxed, playing fun and just kamikaze, it's hard to stop them," Stoudemire said. "It got tough for us in the second quarter."
Not that it was so easy even earlier, such as before the game, when Anthony sat in the corner of the locker room and said he was "hibernating" because he felt so bad about missing the game because of his sprained right ankle. "I'll see if I'll be ready for Monday. It's still a little tender right now," he said. "I don't know. That's too far away."
There is no telling how much difference he could have made had he been in there. Durant had 21 points at halftime and did it so fluidly that it seemed as if he had maybe 10. "I give him all the credit. He's a great player, he made great shots," said Bill Walker, who started in Anthony's place.
The Knicks had no problem with Westbrook maybe rubbing it in. "You can do that when you're winning," Walker said.
Stoudemire added, "I didn't necessarily take notice to it. They were feeling good about themselves, they shot the ball well. They had every right to have fun out there on the court."
Only a few days ago, the Knicks were having all the fun, thanks to a four-game winning streak. They play four times at the Garden this week, and Anthony is expected back sometime in that run. "That's the great thing about the NBA," Stoudemire said. "You've got a game coming up soon."