New York Knicks (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, 0-0 O/U) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, 0-0 O/U)
NBA: Thursday, October 19, 2017, Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 8 pm ET
Line: Oklahoma City -11.5; Over/Under: 214
An inter-conference contest between teams heading in different directions takes place in the Midwest. The New York Knicks, likely in the early stages of a rebuild, travel to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the season opener for both teams Thursday night. New York finished 31-51 in 2016-17, putting them 12th in the Eastern Conference, 10 games behind the Bulls for the final playoff spot. Oklahoma City went 47-35 in the regular season last year, good for sixth in the Western Conference: they were blitzed in five games in the opening round by Houston. The Knicks have a narrow 65-63 edge in the all-time regular season series but the Thunder has taken three straight and six of the last eight meetings.
New York Knicks Looking to Rebuild
New York struggled last season as they finished 20 games under .500 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season. In the offseason, the team made moves to shift out veteran players for youth and even jettisoned Phil Jackson from his role with the organization. In the biggest deal of the offseason, the Knicks dealt Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder. He wasn’t the only player to leave: Derrick Rose signed a one year deal with the Cavaliers, Justin Holiday went to the Bulls while Marshall Plumlee and Chasson Randle are gone as well. In their stead are Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott (acquired from the Thunder in the Anthony deal), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Hawks), Ramon Sessions and Michael Beasley. Rookies Frank Ntilikina, Luke Kornet and Damyean Dotson were brought in as well.
The Knicks were tied for 18th in the league in scoring last season as they averaged 104.3 points per game. New York was 5th in the league in rebounding with 45.2 boards per contest while standing 19th with 21.8 assists per game. The Knicks were 23rd in scoring defense as they allow 108 points per game. Kristaps Porzingis is the team’s leading returning scorer after he put up averages of 18.1 points and 7.2 boards a night. Courtney Lee (10.8 ppg), Kanter, McDermott, Hardaway Jr. Ntilikina, Willy Hernangomez and Lance Thomas all will be looked at to contribute going forward. The Knicks were 24th in field goal percentage as they shoot 44.7 percent as a team. New York was tied for 23rd with 8.6 threes per game while ranking 21st in three point shooting as they hit 34.8 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc.
Oklahoma City Thunder Trying to Make a Run
Oklahoma City has the league’s returning MVP in Russell Westbrook, who set the league record for triple-doubles in a season last year. The Thunder found that he couldn’t carry the load himself in the postseason, though, so they went out and made a couple moves to try and make a move in the loaded Western Conference. Coming in for Oklahoma City are stars Paul George (Pacers) and Carmelo Anthony (Knicks), who were acquired in trades, along with Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton. The team lost Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in the George deal, while Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott went to the Knicks in the Anthony trade. In addition, Taj Gibson signed with Minnesota as a free agent.
The Thunder was solid offensively last season as they were 11th with an average of 106.6 points per game. Oklahoma City was 1st in the league in rebounding with 46.6 boards per contest. The Thunder was 25th in assists with 21 per game. Oklahoma City was 16th in the league in scoring defense as they allowed 105.8 points a night. Russell Westbrook led the team with 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game last season. George and Anthony each averaged better than 20 points a game for their respective teams so seeing how the ball gets shared with that trio should be interesting. Steven Adams chipped in 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds a night. Andre Roberson, Kyle Singler, Alex Abrines and Jerami Grant are key bench players as well. Oklahoma City was tied for 17th in the league in field goal percentage as the team shoots 45.2 percent from the floor. The Thunder was tied for 25th with 8.4 made threes per game and were tied for 29th in three point shooting at 32.7 percent.
- Knicks are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 Thursday games
- Knicks are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. NBA Northwest
- Thunder are 7-0-1 ATS in their last 8 vs. NBA Atlantic
- Thunder are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 vs. Eastern Conference
- Thunder are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 Thursday games
The Knicks have a mismatched roster with a bunch of guys that aren’t sure how they fit together. Joakim Noah is still suspended for the first 12 games of the season as he finishes up a 20 game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Kanter isn’t a typical big man who can play with his back to the basket. Outside of Porzingis, there is not a go-to guy on the roster and he’s still raw in some facets. Oklahoma City has a trio of dangerous weapons who thrived in isolation plays last season so the shot breakdown will be interesting. As it stands, Anthony closes a chapter on his former team and the Thunder rolls to a win.
Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder -11.5
Oklahoma City has to be pleased that Westbrook signed a new contract extension instead of going into free agency after the season. The additions of George and Anthony helped convince him that the Thunder is intent on making a run at the title but it’s a tough road to travel in the Western Conference. It’s safe to say that Oklahoma City would be considered a favorite for a Finals run if they resided in the East. New York is a team in flux as they’re trying the soft rebuild route instead of the complete teardown we’ve seen teams like the 76ers (who could forget “The Process”?) have done recently. Those strategies usually don’t work well but in a major market like the Big Apple, it’s tough to go the nuclear winter route.
The under is 3-0-1 in the Knicks’ last 4 road games, 4-0 in their last 4 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game, 8-2-1 in their last 11 overall and 5-2-1 in their last eight games on Thursday. Oklahoma City has seen the under go 4-0 in their last 4 games following a straight up win, 7-1 in their last 8 when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game, 6-1 in their last 7 games playing on 3 or more days rest and 8-2 in their last 10 when their opponent scores 100 points or more in their previous game. Given the Knicks’ uncertainty about where to go for points, this one stays under the total.