Good evening Knicks fans! Welcome to a Saturday night of basketball at the World's Most Famous Arena, where tonight, the Knicks begin the Tracy McGrady Era (let's see how long it lasts).
I'm Chris Mascaro and I'll be bringing you all of tonight's live game action here from the Garden, as the Knicks (19-34), the 12th place team in the East (eight games behind the Bobcats for the final playoff spot) take on Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who, at 31-21, are in fifth place out West.
As I stated above, McGrady, who came over from the Rockets in Thursday's nine-player, three-team trade, will start tonight in place Wilson Chandler at shooting guard. Chandler slides into the power forward spot, meaning Jared Jeffries is the odd-man out.
McGrady (pictured), who has played just six games this season and none since Dec. 23 in Orlando due to microfracture knee surgery, is unlikely to play even 30 minutes. But he'll be out there at the tip, and he insists he'll be ready to go full speed for however long he's on the floor.
"I don't look at it as I can't do this, I can't do that," he told our own Alan Hahn. "I don't have any doubt. I feel once I'm out there and what I've been through as far as rehabbing and working out, I feel I can do everything I've done in the past."
With McGrady in the lineup, the Knicks are going small, as Danilo Gallinari (at 6-10) is the tallest starter. According to Alan, Chandler (6-8) and Lee (6-9) are the smallest frontcourt in the NBA.
However, the two-time scoring champ and seven-time All Star McGrady should bring some life to the Knicks' offense and will allow coach Mike D'Antoni to employ his up-tempo offense more.
The Knicks could use all the help they can get, as they have lost their last five games. A six-game skid would match the team's longest losing streak of the season.
On the flip side, the Thunder is winners of seven straight (including a 99-86 win over division-leading Dallas on Tuesday). That winning streak is its longest since a nine-game stretch back when it was still the Seattle Supersonics on Nov. 5-19, 2004.
Durant has been at the lead of the recent charge, as he's averaged 32.1 points and 8.9 rebounds during the streak.
Said O.K. City coach Scott Brooks (a former Knicks point guard): "We're on a nice streak right now, but they're a humble group."
Durant, the third-year guard out of Texas, is averaging 29.7 points per game this season, which is second in the league behind only LeBron James' 29.9.
And finally, here are tonight's starting lineups:
Knicks (12-17 at home this season)
Duhon -- PG
McGrady -- SG
Gallinari -- SF
Chandler -- PF
Lee -- C
Thunder (15-11 on the road)
Westbrook -- PG
Sefolosha -- SG
Durant -- SF
Green -- PF
Krstic -- C
Okay, that's all for now. But we've got plenty more to talk about tonight, so let's get the conversation going in the chat box above! And be sure to vote on the poll questions.
I'll be back after each quarter with updates.
We're about 15 minutes from hoops at MSG!
End of the first quarter: Knicks 31, Thunder 25
Leading scorers: Lee 12; Durant 11.
Recap: McGrady was a little timid in the early going. He touched the ball on the first three Knicks possessions but passed up his shot each time. But once he got into the groove, he looked good, hitting two FTs after being fouled on his first jumper. Then he drove the lane, and finished a layin while getting fouled. He completed the three-point play, but was replaced by another newcomer, Eddie House, at the 6:25 mark.
He returned a few minutes later, banked in another jumper and completed a three-point play after being fouled on a runner by Nick Collison.
His final line for the quarter: 10 points (including two three-point plays), 3 of 5 from the field (0 for 2 from downtown), 4 of 4 from the line, three assists, one rebound, one turnover in eight minutes.
Kevin Durant opened the game on fire, hitting 3 of his first 4 from the field. But House hit a 3-pointer and then a jumper to give the Knicks a 20-16 lead with 5:05 left.
The Knicks went on an 8-0 run to make it 28-19 with 1:04 to go and McGrady's second three-point play made it 31-23 (their largest lead of the game). But Russell Westbrook hit his fourth shot from the field to make it 31-25 at the end of the quarter.
End of the second quarter: Knicks 57, Thunder 52
Leading scorers: McGrady 19; Westbrook 15. Lee has 16 and Durant has 14.
*Note: Durant has scored at least 25 points in his last 26 games.
Recap: The Knicks look strong so far tonight, and McGrady is right there in the thick of things. He completed a nice up-and-under on a pass down low from Jonathan Bender to give the Knicks a nine-point lead. He's got 19 points so far in just 17 minutes, and is 7 of 12 from the field.
Earlier in the period, Lee stripped Durant and sent a long pass ahead to House, who was blocked from behind, but was bailed out by a goaltending call.
Gallnari's 3-pointer (later ruled a two) momentarily put the Knicks up 10 (actually nine, but still their biggest lead of the game) at 47-37, but the Thunder clawed its way back behind a pair of free throws from Westbrook and a short turnaround jumper by Jeff Green to make it 51-46.
McGrady put back his own miss underneath to make it 53-46 (the ruling on Danilo's made jumper changed it to 52). The Thunder tied the game at 52 on a Westbrook layin, but then, with under 30 seconds to play in the half, McGrady hit a 3-pointer and a long jumper to get the crowd going nuts and give the Knicks a 57-52 lead at the break.
End of the third quarter: Thunder 82, Knicks 80
Leading scorers: Westbrook 25, Durant 22; McGrady 24, Lee 22.
Recap: Poor plays by McGrady and Lee led to Westbrook's three-point play to close the lead to 57-55. McGrady pouted after he fell on a missed jumper and the Thunder found the open man (Westbrook), who was fouled by Lee as he made a layup.
Wilson Chandler responded with a four straight points on a jumper and a nice spin move on a drive for a layup.
McGrady's third three-point play of the night gave him a game-high 22 points and gave the Knicks a 66-63 lead.
The Thunder pulled within one at 70-69, and Chandler threw away a pass for a backcourt violation to give them the ball right back. Durant couldn't capitalize though, as he missed a jumper with Gallo's hand in his face.
He did on the next possession, with a dunk to give the Thunder a 71-70 lead, its first lead since it was 14-13 with 7:06 left in the first quarter.
Westbrook converted a three-point play at the 4:07 mark to make it a 75-70 lead (the Thunder was on a 12-4 run at that point).
Baskets by Lee tied the game at 76 and 78, but Westbrook banked in a runner with under a minute to play to make it 80-78. Rodriguez tied it at 80 on a jumper, but rookie James Harden hit two free throws to make it 82-80 with 7.3 to play.
That's the end of the game, as the Thunder defeats the Knicks, 121-118, to extend the Knicks' losing streak to six. O.K. City's winning streak is at eight.
Scores by quarter for the Thunder: 25, 27, 30, 23, 16
Scores by quarter for the Knicks: 31, 26, 23, 25, 13
Recap of the fourth quarter: House hit a jumper (initially ruled a two, but switched to a three after review) to make it 83-82 Knicks.
But later, a Collison dunk made it 87-84 Thunder. House closed it to one on a long jumper, but Harrington fouled Harden on a three-point attempt and he sank 2 of 3 to make it 89-86. A Durant jumper made it 91-86.
Later, at the 5:52 mark, Gallo hit a 3-pointer to give the Knicks the lead at 92-91 (T-Mac checked back in about a minute earlier to a huge ovation). Westbrook (who's having a phenomenal game) hit a short jumper to put the Thunder back on top.
Soon thereafter, House's 3-pointer with 4:20 to play gave the Knicks a four-point advantage at 97-93. Durant's two free throws pulled the Thunder within two, but House hit a pair of free throws at the 2:59 mark to push it back to four at 99-95.
Lee's running hook pushed it to six, Westbrook answered with a jumper, but McGrady hit a J with 1:33 left to make it 103-97, prompting an O.K. City timeout.
T-Mac was fouled with 1:05 to play, but missed both free throws. Green hit a fallaway 3-pointer to make it a 103-100 game, and then after a Chandler miss, Westbrook hit a layin with under 20 seconds to play to make it a one-point game.
House was fouled with 12.8 seconds to play and hit both. But Durant took a pass at the top of the key and drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 105 with six seconds to play. Wow.
Gallo missed a long three at the buzzer to send this one to overtime.
Recap of O.T.: Three-pointers by House and Chandler sandwiched a made one from downtown by Durant to make it 111-108 Knicks with 3:14 left. Thabo Sefolosha hit two free thows to close it to one, but Lee hit a runner to push it to 113-110.
Rodriguez was fouled just before the shot clock went off and hit 1 of 2 free throws, making it 114-110 with 2:10 to play.
Collison's hook shot pulled O.K. City to within two with 2:00 to go, but Lee's putback of a Rodriguez miss made it 116-112. Green his a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game, and the Thunder regained possession on Chandler's offensive foul.
OK. City capiitalized, as Collison tipped in Westbrook's miss to give the Thunder a 117-116 lead.
House caught the inbounds from McGrady, fired and hit with 30.7 left to make it 118-117 Knicks. But Durant answered right back with a jumper over Chandler's head to make it a one-point game with 16.6 to play.
Chandler missed a runner and O.K. City got the rebound with 11.1 to go, and Durant (who else?) iced it with two free throws.
House and Gallo each missed threes on the final possession. Neither had a particularly good look.
Here are tonight's three stars...
1. Durant: 36 points (game-high) on 10 of 25 from the field, including the game-winning jumper with 16.6 to play in O.T., and 14 of 15 on the line. He also had five rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and five turnovers.
2. Westbrook: Was a rebound shy of a triple-double with 31 points, 10 assists (only four turnovers) and nine rebounds.
3. McGrady: In his Knicks debut, he scored 26 points. He shot 10 of 17 from the field with four rebounds and five assists. He tired in the second half, though, with just two points after the 7:20 mark of the third quarter.
Also for the Knicks, House scored 24 and shot 8 of 14 from the field (4 of 8 from downtown), and Lee had a team-high 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Okay, that's all for tonight's game. Thanks to all for coming out!