NEW YORK (AP) — It didn’t take long for the New York Knicks to go from surging to struggling. Their struggles might not be about to end.
The Knicks attempt to snap a three-game slide by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder for just the second time in eight meetings Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
New York (16-12) emerged as one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this fall by winning 13 of 14, including an eight-game streak – its longest in more than 16 years.
That momentum ended with consecutive losses to Boston and Miami – the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks failed to rebound from those defeats and saw their losing streak reach three with Saturday’s 109-102 overtime defeat at last-place Cleveland.
“It has been a long week,” Amar’e Stoudemire said. “We gave it all we had in the Miami game and back-to-backs are always tough in this league. That’s just the way it is.”
The schedule won’t give New York much relief in the next week. After facing the Thunder (20-9), the Knicks host Central Division-leading Chicago on Saturday before visiting the Heat on Tuesday.
The Knicks have dropped six of seven to Oklahoma City dating back to a victory Jan. 5, 2007, when the franchise was the Seattle SuperSonics.
New York lost a third consecutive meeting with the Thunder in the most recent matchup at MSG on Feb. 20 – 121-118 in overtime.
Perhaps Stoudemire, the Knicks’ leader with 26.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, can make the difference. He’s averaging 29.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in his last three games versus Oklahoma City – all while he played for Phoenix.
The Thunder are tied with Utah atop the Northwest Division after winning six of seven overall and three in a row on the road.
They parlayed a 25-3 run to start the fourth quarter into a 99-81 win at Charlotte on Tuesday. Oklahoma City’s strong defensive effort came two nights after losing 113-110 to Phoenix.
“It was a combination of them missing shots and us playing great defense,” said coach Scott Brooks, who indicated he’d “flushed it out” with his team following the loss to the Suns. “We really focused on getting better defensively.”
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 32 points Tuesday, shooting 8 of 13 from the floor and adding seven rebounds.
The NBA’s leading scorer has totaled 66 points in his last two meetings with the Knicks.
Russell Westbrook has also had success against New York, averaging 23.3 points and 8.0 assists in the last three games in the series. He had 31 points and 10 assists in the Thunder’s last visit to MSG, a 121-118 overtime victory Feb. 20, when Durant led all scorers with 36.
Westbrook had a less impressive performance against the Bobcats on Tuesday, finishing with 15 points but shooting 5 for 13.
© 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.