The 2017-18 NBA season tipped off last night for both the OKC Thunder and the New York Knicks. Typically this game wouldn’t have generated such buzz but with the trade of Carmelo Anthony over the summer from New York to OKC and all that led to it, this game was must see television around the country. The final outcome wound up being an easy 105-84 win for the Thunder but did we learn much about either team? The answer is not really.
It’s impossible to analyze a team after only one game. Nobody expected this to be much of a game and it wasn’t. Although the Knicks put up a great effort in the first half, they fell apart in the third quarter and the chance of an upset win on the road vanished. Kristaps Porzingis gave the Thunder all the problems they could handle, as he finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds but unfortunately for him, there wasn’t much help out there. Former Thunder player, Enes Kanter, was the only other Knicks player in double figures and he finished with 10 points.
After the game, Anthony had some nice words for Porzingis. “Just to see that he’s ready to take on that role — he looked aggressive tonight,” Anthony said. “He looked comfortable, felt comfortable tonight. I was happy to see that.” Despite the high praise from Anthony, we already knew the Knicks have a real star in the young Porzingis. What we need to see from them over time is progress. Last night they had 26 turnovers, which led to 35 fast break points for the Thunder. Obviously that can’t happen each night or they will be worse than anticipated. They also need more from Tim Hardaway Jr, especially in the scoring column. The debut of first round pick, Frank Ntilikina, was a complete dud but it wasn’t all on him. Coach Jeff Hornacek only played him a total of seven minutes and it’s hard to get any rhythm with such little action.
As far as the Thunder, we didn’t learn much about them either. They did what they were supposed to do against a bad team but they were sloppy at times and didn’t shoot very well. They won’t be able to get away with things like that so easily against better teams. It was clear the “OK3” still needs time to gel together but there’s no reason to believe they won’t. Paul George finished with 28 points on 9-23 shooting, including six three pointers. Anthony finished with 22 points on 8-20 shooting and Russell Westbrook had his first triple double of the season, finishing with 21 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds. It marks the 80th triple double of his career. You could tell he was very relieved to have teammates that can fill up the stat sheet and if there was anything we learned about the Thunder, it’s that Westbrook is more than capable of pulling his game back a little bit to get others involved. He only took 12 shots and legit seemed very happy about it after the game. George definitely noticed the difference in having Westbrook on his side and getting him open shots. “It’s great,” George said. “The game comes so easy. I know I’m going to get those easy opportunities like I did tonight. It’s only going to make me better.”
Anthony was another player who was very happy after the game. Being on a winning team is still a new feeling for him and having a teammate like Westbrook has him excited about the future. “You guys are used to it,” Anthony said. “I’m used to watching it. I’m used to going up against it. Now, to be on the other side of that on the same team as him, and to reap those benefits of what he can bring to the game — I’m excited about what we started out tonight, what we created tonight and where we’re headed.”
The potential for the Thunder to be great this season is limitless, especially knowing that as they get more games under their belt, the chemistry will only improve, which will lead to even better offense. They already showed signs that they can turn it up on the defensive end last night. In the first quarter, the Knicks shot 56% from the field but after that, the Thunder held them to just 36% shooting the rest of the game. They are a long team which will be sure to be a problem for most teams in the league.
The Knicks have some players with potential but as a team overall, not much is expected this season. They weren’t picked to be a playoff team in the weak eastern conference but I believe I saw things last night that can be worked on to turn them into a 7 or 8 seed in the playoffs by the end of the regular season. Again, you can’t overreact either way for a team after just one game so we shall see how things play out for both teams. For now, let’s just be happy the NBA is back!
Written by Joe Casey