NEW YORK — With Carmelo Anthony back in the Big Apple, Saturday night was supposed to be about the? Knicks’ past.
But the present is much more interesting at the moment.
The Knicks somehow beat Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder by 15 points with New York’s top two scorers sitting on the bench due to injury. The Knicks have won four straight, and at 16-13, they will wake up Sunday in a four-way tie for the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re improving every day it seems like,” New York head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We’re not having the same mistakes (repeatedly), so I think the guys are getting it and they’re feeling good about what they’re doing.”
In some ways, the Knicks were probably supposed to beat Oklahoma City and its Big Three on Saturday. The Thunder was playing the second game of a back-to-back, coming off of a triple-overtime win in Philadelphia. And it was without starting center Steven Adams.
But it wasn’t so much the end result on Saturday that impressed Hornacek – it was the way the Knicks won the game.
With both Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. sidelined, the Knicks needed big nights from players they haven’t relied on regularly.
And they got them.
Thanks to big nights from Michael Beasley, Courtney Lee, Ron Baker, Doug McDermott and Kyle O’Quinn, New York shot 55 percent from the field and had 21 assists on 38 made field goals against OKC. Hornacek and the players saw that as evidence that they are “playing the right way” – which is a euphemism for using ball movement and constant player movement to create open shots.
“We’re clicking, we have a good vibe going,” McDermott said after scoring 13 points in 32 minutes. ” If you get the ball moving and make the unselfish play, everyone’s going to succeed.”
The Knicks also excelled on the defensive end, holding the Thunder to 42 percent shooting. Hornacek credited Baker for defending Paul George well during stretches.
“This is the Ron Baker you saw last year,” the coach said.
But the Knicks don’t come close to winning the game without Beasley, who grew up emulating Anthony while playing in the same Washington D.C.-Baltimore pipeline as the former Knick.
It was only natural that Beasley took over the game that was supposed to be all about Anthony and his return to New York. In addition to tying his career-high of 30 points, Beasley added a season-high four assists for the Knicks against the Thunder.
“Mike’s been fantastic,” Hornacek said….