Thunder-ous start for OKC's new 'Big 3'

New York Knicks' Kyle O'Quinn (in white) trying to block Carmelo Anthony of the Oklahoma City Thunder during their NBA game on Thursday. Anthony ended with 22 points in his team's 105-84 victory.
New York Knicks' Kyle O'Quinn (in white) trying to block Carmelo Anthony of the Oklahoma City Thunder during their NBA game on Thursday. Anthony ended with 22 points in his team's 105-84 victory.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Instant chemistry as Westbrook, George and Anthony combine for 71 points and easy win

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 gel.

There might be some nights, especially early in the National Basketball Association (NBA) season, where rhythm is hard to come by and points are difficult to find and the defence does not quite click.

But that was not the case on Thursday, 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," OKC 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 defence that got the offence humming as much as anything else.

 

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    New York Knicks turnovers, which led to 37 points for Oklahoma City

The Thunder forced 26 Knicks turnovers, leading to 37 points.

Westbrook, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, 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 left 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 of the trio.

"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.

While the Thunder took advantage of New York's turnovers, the Knicks could not 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 just before training camp opened.

"That chapter is closed," he 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 organisation and move forward."

He added that it was strange watching his former team-mates Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr especially play while he was on the bench.

Before the game, Anthony hugged both and then at half-time embraced Hornacek.

There were plenty of positives for the Thunder. A year ago, when Westbrook headed to the bench for a rest, they were hard-pressed to find much offence.

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 offence stagnated as the Knicks cut what was a nine-point deficit to a one-point advantage by the time he returned 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.

In Los Angeles, the Clippers continued their domination of the Lakers by routing them 108-92 and spoiling the debut of second-overall pick Lonzo Ball, who had three points and nine rebounds.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2017, with the headline 'Thunder-ous start for OKC's new 'Big 3''. Print Edition | Subscribe