By Randy Renner
Just when it was looking like the Thunder were settling into a really nice groove, winning seven straight games, the injury bug has come back with fangs.
First center Steven Adams, who’s become a stout defender down low, sprained his elbow during pregame warmups Friday night in Dallas. Then the team’s best perimeter defender, guard Andre Roberson, sprained his right knee when teammate Russell Westbrook fell into him during the second quarter of the Nets game Sunday night.
The good news is Roberson won’t need surgery, the bad news he’s going to be out at least three weeks recovering from the sprain. Adams will miss tonight’s game in New York against the Knicks and most likely tomorrow night’s contest at Minnesota also.
Injuries never come at a good time, but the loss of Adams really showed up Sunday against Brooklyn when the painted area was left most unprotected and Brook Lopez scored 31 points. The defense overall wasn’t very good allowing the Nets to score 116 points, a season-high for games that didn’t go into overtime.
Now comes an inside-outside challenge from the Knicks who have 7-3 rookie Kristaps Porzingis who can dominate down low in the lane or up top beyond the 3-point arc, In fact Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is so impressed with Porzingis’ unique skill set he called him a “unicorn.”
“He can shoot, he can make the right plays, he can defend, he’s a 7-footer who can shoot all the way out to the 3-point line. That’s rare,” KD told reporters after Monday’s practice before adding, “and he can block shots that’s like a unicorn in this league.”
And don’t forget about All-Star Carmelo Anthony who says he plans to play through knee soreness as the Knicks try to avoid their first back-to-back home losses since November tonight against an Oklahoma City team that hasn't lost two in a row in two months.
New York's Robin Lopez, Brook's twin brother, certainly doesn't pose as much of a threat, but Anthony has given the Thunder fits lately. He's totaled 56 points to help the Knicks win the last two meetings, and his 27.1 career average is his highest versus any Western Conference opponent.
The All-Star forward, however, has shot 39.4 percent in his last four games after missing two with an ankle injury. He's still questionable for this contest, despite saying he plans to play, after feeling soreness in his knee Saturday when he had a season-low nine points in 29 minutes (none in the fourth quarter) of a 97-84 loss at Charlotte.
The Knicks (22-24), who averaged 112.7 points during a six-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden, have scored 86.0 per game in their last two overall.
The Knicks held Oklahoma City to 38.0 percent shooting, including just 3-for-29 from 3-point range, in a 93-90 win at The Peake on November 20th. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder that night with 34 points and he's averaged 35.3 in his last three games against the Knicks.
Durant's 29.4 career scoring average against New York is his second-highest of any East opponent, though he's missed the past three matchups.
Tipoff is set for 6:40 Oklahoma time tonight and you can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder will fly to Minneapolis right after the game for their contest against the Timberwolves tomorrow night to end their current four-game road trip.
The Thunder will be back home and hosting James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Friday night