The effort was pitiful. The defense was egregious. The score was embarrassing.
James Dolan couldn’t have been happy from his baseline seat witnessing Sunday’s atrocity, a 145-135 defeat to the Thunder that represented the most points allowed in the Tom Thibodeau era.
The Knicks (6-7) couldn’t excuse the performance to a top-flight opponent since the Thunder (6-7), the youngest team in the NBA with an average age just a hair over 23, is still rebuilding and projected for the draft lottery.
OKC came to the Garden and shot 63%, including 55% from beyond the arc. The Knicks left the court to a round of boos.
The first fallout was an extended benching of RJ Barrett, who struggled Sunday and logged only two minutes of the second half. Barrett finished with just 19 minutes and four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
He was burned by OKC’s Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, the budding superstar who the Knicks passed over in 2018 to draft Kevin Knox. Alexander finished with 37 points and eight assists, becoming the latest reminder of what the Knicks’ are lacking — a true star.
Thibodeau had the Knicks arrive early for the noon game — their earliest tipoff thus far — to hold a walkthrough on the MSG court. The afternoon weekend contests in Manhattan are famous for flat performances, commonly labeled the hangover affect.
At first, Thibodeau’s maneuver appeared to help. The Knicks set a franchise record for points in the opening quarter with 48, which gave them a 12-point edge heading into the second.
Then things fell apart.
The Knicks were shredded from long distance by OKC, which dropped 43 points in the second quarter and led at the break, 79-73. The bleeding never stopped.
Allowing 79 points in the first half might’ve caused Thibodeau an aneurysm at any other moment in his coaching career, but these Knicks have adopted a fast-paced offensive-minded philosophy that often translates to higher scores.
Still, no matter the strategy, the defensive performance was inexcusable.