OKLAHOMA CITY — The Knicks suffered a breakdown right before their break.
Playing in their final game before the All-Star break, the Knicks squandered a 17-point first-half lead and lost, 116-105, to the Thunder Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Russell Westbrook was nothing short of brilliant for the Thunder (32-25) as he led his team back and to the victory with his 27th triple-double of the season. Westbrook finished with 38 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.
“He’s an All-Star for a reason and he had a pretty amazing game,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “He started slow and once he gets in rhythm he’s hard to stop.”
The Knicks, who were outscored 84-56 over the last 33 minutes of the game, go into the break with a disappointing 23-34 record.
Carmelo Anthony, who officially was named an All-Star replacement for injured Cavaliers forward Kevin Love during the game, led the Knicks with 30 points. He started 7-for-7 and scored 19 points in the first quarter. He was 4-for-13 with 11 points the rest of the way. Derrick Rose added 25 points and seven assists.
Kristaps Porzingis struggled after a fast start. He made three of his first four shots, and ended up 4-for-13 with 11 points. Porzingis said the stomach illness that bothered him a couple of weeks ago resurfaced and he vomited a couple of times during the game.
“I couldn’t even stretch at one point in the game,” Porzingis said. “It was killing me. It is what it is. I tried to fight through it and help the team but it was tough.
The Thunder changed the momentum of the game with a 28-6 run over the second and third quarters and led 66-60. Westbrook was fantastic.
He recorded the triple-double midway through the third quarter — the ninth time this season he had one before the end of the third.
The Thunder went ahead 85-76 with 2:10 left in the third. The Knicks cut it to five, but then gave up a Victor Oladipo three-pointer at the buzzer and were down 88-80 heading to the fourth.
The Knicks trailed 101-94 after an Anthony turnaround jumper with 5:31 left. But the Thunder outscored them 10-2 over the next 1:26 to take a 111-96 lead. Westbrook was responsible for all 10 points, scoring seven and feeding Jerami Grant for a three-pointer.
“We were tentative on the offensive side and we were tentative on the defensive side too,” Jeff Hornacek said. “You can’t close out on guys three feet short. You’ve got to get in their legs. You’ve got to battle guys like Westbrook. Against a guy with his capabilities you’ve got to do a lot of things right.”
Many Knicks were looking forward to the break after a tumultuous opening stretch of the season on and off the court. For some Wednesday night could have been their last game with the Knicks.
The trade deadline is Feb. 23. Although Jeff Hornacek said he expects to coach the same group when the Knicks play the Cavaliers next Thursday, nothing is guaranteed. Rose, who is on an expiring deal and could draw some interest, knows that.
“Who knows?” Rose said. “I really don’t know what could happen in the next week, the next day. I just got to wait and see.
“I don’t talk things into existence, put things in the universe that I don’t want to happen. I like being here but you never know what could happen. You never know the future they have for this team or decisions they have to make to try to build a winning team.”
The Knicks don’t believe they’re that far off from being a playoff team. Rose called it “reachable” despite the Knicks being 10 games below .500 heading into Wednesday’s game.
They were only three games out of the eighth seed before the game. Rose thinks management should keep the team together and see if they can make a run after the break.
“I think so,” Rose said. “I played on a Bulls team where it took us to Game 82 to get to the playoffs and I think we played against Boston that year. You never know what can happen. Things can click and you never know.”
Hornacek agreed. Despite rumors that management could look to start another rebuild at this trade deadline, Hornacek said the Knicks are trying to win this year.
“We do have veteran guys,” Hornacek said. “l believe we can get on a roll . . . Our thoughts are, ‘Why can’t we suddenly roll off seven or eight in a row?’ You win seven or eight in a row all of a sudden you climb that ladder pretty fast in the East. That’s what we’re looking at.”
Hornacek said management looks at it like that too.
“They haven’t come to me and said start playing all the young guys,” Hornacek said. “So I think that’s their vision too.”
Hernangomez joins Porzingis. Rookie center Willy Hernangomez was picked to replace injured Denver guard Emmanuel Mudiay on the World Team in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend. Porzingis already was chosen last week to play in Friday’s game.
Hernangomez also started for the second straight game at center Wednesday night for Joakim Noah, who sat for the fifth straight time with a sore left hamstring.
Knicks No.1. Missing the playoffs three straight years (and counting?), the Anthony-Phil Jackson discord and the Jim Dolan-Charles Oakley feud haven’t hurt business. The Knicks are the NBA’s most valuable franchise, worth $3.3 billion according to Forbes Magazine.
Jennings sits. Brandon Jennings, who also has an expiring deal, missed Wednesday night’s game because of a sore left Achilles that led to speculation that he could be on the move. It’s the same one he ruptured in 2015 when he was with the Pistons that sidelined him for a year. Jennings said he’s not worried.
“No, no concern,” he said. “Just sore from all the grinding, stuff like that.”