Three claps for Thunder trio in rout of Knicks
OKLAHOMA CITY — It might take the Oklahoma City Thunder’s new big three — Carmelo Anthony and Paul George added to Russell Westbrook — some time to come together.
There might be some nights, especially early in the season, where rhythm is hard to come by and points are difficult to find and the defense doesn’t quite click.
That wasn’t the case Thursday, though, as the Thunder opened the season with a 105-84 victory over the New York Knicks at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Guys played in different cities, different environments, different systems, with different players,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “What I’m doing as a coach is — what are we doing to create that chemistry and to gel as a group. I think you have to do that first by talking through it. They’ve done a remarkable job.”
Against the Knicks, it was the defense that got the offense humming as much as anything else.
The Thunder forced 26 Knicks turnovers, leading to 37 points.
Westbrook once again turned in a triple-double with 21 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds, sealing the mark with his final rebound with about four minutes remaining and the game well in hand.
George finished with 28 points while Anthony added 22.
“Great players and chemistry is pretty easy to get quickly,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “They know how to play, and they know how to get each other shots.”
Kristaps Porzingis led the Knicks with 31 points and 12 rebounds. The only other New York player to score in double digits was Enes Kanter, who had 10 points.
Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn played a combined 44 minutes while young Willy Hernangomez played less than four.
Hornacek said that was based on preseason production but added that his team’s rotation on the inside could change.
While the Thunder took advantage of New York’s turnovers, the Knicks couldn’t do the same. Oklahoma City turned the ball over 20 times, but the Knicks converted those into just 10 points.
For Anthony, it was a chance to move on after six-plus seasons in New York ended acrimoniously, leading to his trade to Oklahoma City just before training camp opened.
“That chapter is closed,” Anthony said. “No more Knicks talk. We can just focus on the Thunder and moving forward and what we have to do as a team and an organization and move forward.”
It didn’t take long for Anthony to turn the page, hitting a 3-pointer less than a minute into the game and getting a large roar.
“I was able to just focus on the game after that,” Anthony said.
Anthony said it was strange watching his former teammates — Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. especially — play while he was on the bench.
Before the game, Anthony hugged each of those players then at halftime embraced Hornacek.
There was plenty new for the Thunder, most notably with the additions of George in an offseason trade from the Indiana Pacers and Anthony to go with a new-look bench.
A year ago, when Westbrook headed to the bench for a rest, the Thunder were hard-pressed to find much offense.
But with Anthony and George on board, the Thunder had one of their stars on the floor at all times.
The first time Westbrook sat, the offense stagnated as the Knicks cut what was a nine-point deficit to a one-point advantage by the time Westbrook re-entered early in the second quarter.
But the second time Westbrook sat, the Thunder were able to maintain what had ballooned to a 20-point lead.
NOTES: Knicks F Michael Beasley sustained a left ankle injury after hitting a shot late in the first quarter and landing on Thunder G Russell Westbrook’s foot. Beasley did not return, though X-rays were negative. ... The triple-double was the 80th of Westbrook’s career. Westbrook averaged a triple-double a season ago. ... Knicks C Enes Kanter was given a loud ovation both in warmups and when he was introduced as a starter. Kanter played 180 games for the Thunder over the previous two-plus seasons. ... New York coach Jeff Hornacek was given a technical foul at the end of the first half after arguing with officials following Thunder F Paul George’s steal and basket at the buzzer. New York G Courtney Lee was also called for a technical in the final minute of the second quarter.