The New York Knicks host the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night with both clubs clinging to their No. 2 seeds in their respective conferences.
The Knicks trail the Miami Heat by 7.5 games in the Eastern Conference and have just a half-game advantage on the Indiana Pacers. The San Antonio Spurs have a three-game lead over the Thunder, while the Los Angeles Clippers are just 1.5 games behind for the No. 2 spot.
Carmelo Anthony’s health is a major storyline for New York. The star forward sat out Wednesday night’s victory over the Detroit Pistons due to some fluid in his right knee, and his status remains uncertain.
Anthony’s presence is of particular interest given the high-profile matchup against fellow MVP candidate Kevin Durant. The Thunder’s star forward leads the NBA in scoring at 28.6, while Anthony is second at 28.2.
Head coach Mike Woodson might consider giving Anthony an extended rest. Anthony is shooting just 36.6 percent from the field in the last eight games, and had five straight games of 40 or more minutes before being hobbled on Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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The Knicks are 3-3 in the six games that Anthony has missed this season.
"Melo is a big piece of our ballclub and we have had games this year where he missed and we have been successful," Woodson said, after the win over Detroit. "That is the sign of a true team, a team that is willing to step up and make plays and win regardless of who is in uniform."
The Knicks have won five of their last six games entering Thursday, while the Thunder are coming off a 122-105 victory over the Lakers at home.
While Durant remains a major offensive weapon, the Thunder have benefited from Russell Westbrook’s outstanding play in recent games. The athletic point guard is averaging 34.7 points per game in his last three games on 52.8 percent field-goal shooting. Westbrook has also averaged 7.3 rebounds per game in that span.
Thursday’s match promises to be a high-scoring affair. The Thunder are tied for first with the Houston Rockets in scoring average (107), while the Knicks are 10th (99.9).
This is the first meeting between the two teams this season.
The last time the two clubs met was back on Jan. 14, 2012, at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder prevailed behind Durant’s 29 points in a game that appeared more one-sided than the 104-92 final score would indicate. Anthony was inactive due to a sprained right ankle and an injured left wrist.
The game tips-off at 8 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast nationally by TNT, or you can watch their live online stream on TNT Overtime here.