Additional courtside observations from Wednesday night’s 112-98 Thunder loss against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden:
* There was a huge difference between Tuesday night’s game at Charlotte and Wednesday night’s contest at New York, and it was more than the overall talent and atmosphere.
For the first three quarters on Tuesday, it was easy to surmise the Thunder should have cruised past the outmanned Bobcats, which OKC eventually did in the fourth quarter with a 31-12 pounding.
Against the Knicks, it was easy to see the Thunder was grossly outmanned at the center position, which is frequently the case when it comes to Amar’e Stoudemire, who might be playing the best ball of his career.
Serge Ibaka repeatedly got schooled – not due to a lack of effort or talent, but more to a lack of experience. The 21-year-old needs to pay closer attention to what will work, and what will not work during the course of the game. If somebody has figured out your head fake and blocked your shot, there’s a good chance he’s going to block it again, and again.
* Kevin Durant was scintillating with a 13-point first quarter during which two shots rattled in and out. The sellout crowd was sensing a big night from a big star.
Durant began 4 for 7 from the field in the first period. For the remainder of the game, he went 5 for 11 after the Knicks let it be known nothing would come easy.
“They made shots and we missed shots,” Durant said. “We’re a tough team on the road and tonight we just weren’t able to make shots.”
* In addition to Stoudemire, point guard Raymond Felton makes a huge difference for the Knicks. He’s unselfish, yet also a scoring threat. He finished with 12 points and 10 assists against the Thunder.
Asked if this was the Knicks’ best win of the season, Felton said, “It is one of them … not going to say the best, but it’s one of them. We played a great game against a really good team.”
* In the hall-of-fame career of Larry Brown that spans six decades as a player and coach, his final game might come against the Thunder.
Brown was inducted in the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. It’s rare for an NBA coach to be inducted and still be coaching eight years later.
It was easy to see Tuesday the end was near for Brown, who stepped down as Bobcats coach Wednesday morning.
“It’s like going to the dentist right now,” Brown said before his pre-game interview when asked how he was doing.
When Brown spoke of the Bobcats, he shook his head. When Brown spoke of the Thunder, his expression changed for the better.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks on Brown’s departure: “It’s unfortunate. He’s a guy that I admire and I appreciate what he has done for the game. Unfortunately, that happens. We’re going to miss him in the profession. Hopefully he will bounce back and be fine. He’s one of the best coaches of all-time. He wins everywhere he’s gone. He’s accomplished a lot, both playing and coaching. It’s quite a career.”
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni: “I hate it for him. Or it could be a blessing, depending on how you look at it for him. He’s one of the best coaches we have. It happens. Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault. Sometimes you need a different voice, but you’re not going to find a better coach than him. No way. He’s one of the best we have. Hopefully if he wants to, he can keep on going.”
Felton, who played for Brown at Charlotte: “My heart goes out to him. He is a guy who loves the game of basketball and always wants to be teaching and always wants to be coaching, so my heart really goes out to him.”
* Asked if he could ever envision himself making as many stops as the 70-year-old Brown, who had 13 professional and college coaching jobs, Brooks smiled and said, “I’m just focusing on this stop here.”
* Durant wore Jeff Green‘s No. 22 warm-up pull-over two hours before tip. The reason? Durant gave his warm-up to a kid in Charlotte at the request of Bobcats point guard and former Texas teammate D.J. Augustin.