NEW YORK (AP) — Billy Donovan didn’t see perfection. Instead, he saw progressive growth over the course of a game — in its most vital moments.
And that left the Oklahoma City Thunder coach pleased.
“(We) put together some stops and were able to build on the lead,” Donovan said after the Thunder’s 126-103 rout of the New York Knicks on Friday night. “Guys did a nice job of closing the third (quarter) and starting the fourth. We played well on both ends.”
Danilo Gallinari led Oklahoma City with 22 points in 27 minutes and was one of six Oklahoma City players to finish in double figures.
“I felt great,” said Gallinari, whom the Knicks selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft, but traded three years later. “It’s always good to come back to New York where everything started. It is even better when you get a win.”
Chris Paul added 21 points and 12 assists for Oklahoma City, which has won two straight an seven of 10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 18 points. Dennis Schroder and Hamidou Diallo had 16 and 12, respectively, off the bench, and Steven Adams contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds.
All of which left New York’s interim coach Mike Miller less-than-overwhelmed with his team.
“They got everything from the way I saw it during the game,” said Miller of a Knicks squad that has dropped consecutive games, and has lost eight of 10.
Elfrid Payton led New York with 18 points. RJ Barrett scored 17 points, Bobby Portis added 14, Julius Randle chipped in with 12, and Mitchell Robinson had 11.
“When we didn’t shoot well,” Miller said, “it turned into the other end and we had some slips on the defensive side.”
The matchup between a team readying itself for the upcoming playoffs and the other preparing for the draft lottery played out exactly as expected.
The Thunder began to take control of the game midway through the second quarter and led 61-48 at halftime. They did not let up in the second half as the advantage grew to 34 points after Paul drilled a 3 with 9:50 left in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma City is guard-oriented team, but that didn’t stop the Thunder from attacking the interior. They finished with 58 points in the paint.
“We got stops,” Donovan said. “We got out behind their defense. Nerlens (Noel) got some dunks. We got some 3s. When we got stops we were able to get out into transition.”
THUNDER: The game could have been Paul’s audition for the Knicks, as there is speculation suggesting the long-beleaguered franchise could trade for Oklahoma City’s veteran point guard this summer. Paul, whose former agent Leon Rose is now the president of the Knicks, entered the game averaging 17.5 points and 6.7 assists, and was named to the All-Star team.
Paul said he “was so happy for Leon. I can almost get emotional talking about it. I have been through a lot, so it was bigger than an agent-player relationship.” But he also essentially no-commented in response to a question whether well-publicized incidents with film director Spike Lee and legendary Knicks power forward Charles Oakley caused players from around the league to be reluctant to sign with New York. “I can’t speak for (anybody) else,” Paul said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to know (Oakley, who is like) my uncle. I know (Oakley) for years. I know Spike.”
Paul, 34, is in his 15th season. He has has two years left on a four-year, $159.7 million contract that pays him an average salary of $39.9 million. He will be 36 years old when the deal expires at the end of the 2021-22 season.
KNICKS: Among other aspects of the game, perimeter shooting has not been New York’s forte this season. The Knicks entered the game averaging .338 percent shooting from 3, which ranks 27th in the league. By comparison, New York’s opponents have made .383 percent of 3s against the Knicks this season.
It is likely both sets of numbers will change, as the Knicks misfired on 20 of 24 3-pointers while allowing the Thunder to knock down 38.7% from behind the arc.
“We didn’t make a three-point shot in the first half,” Miller. “You’re going to have games where you don’t shoot well from there. You’ve got to be able to play and hold on until you make some shots.”
Added Bobby Portis: “We can’t let our offensive struggles dictate out effort on the defensive end. We didn’t make shots tonight but we discounted our effort.”
NOTES: The game was the first of two regular-season matchups between the teams. They will play once more, April 10, in Oklahoma City. … Prior to the game, Miller announced Robinson would be able to play after the second-year center missed the Knicks’ 112-104 loss to Utah on Wednesday due to an injured hamstring. The news wasn’t all positive, as Miller said guard Dennis Smith Jr. was undergoing concussion protocol. … Friday night’s game was a homecoming of sorts for Donovan, who grew up in Rockville Centre, Long Island, which is about a 28-mile drive from Madison Square Garden. “It certainly brings back a lot of memories,” Donovan said. “I can remember jumping on the Long Island Railroad and buying a $5 ticket and trying to (make) my way down as close as I could to the court to watch games.” … Before the game and during stoppages in play, both the Knicks and Thunder honored fire, police and rescue personnel in New York and Oklahoma City who responded to the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
THUNDER: Visit Boston Sunday.
KNICKS: Host Detroit Sunday.
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