NEW YORK – Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin has struggled on the road this season, which can be a tad intimidating when your next appearance is on the biggest stage of all.
Oklahoma City (44-16) faces the New York Knicks (36-21) at 7 p.m. today in Madison Square Garden – aka The World's Most Famous Arena, where visitors can earn an official stamp of approval with a superlative effort.
If you can make shots there, you can make shots anywhere. It's up to you, New York, New York.
The affable Martin has been able to tolerate his road struggles whenever they occur, playfully joking he forgot to pack his jumper for the trip.
Last Friday's last-second loss at Denver was intolerable, however.
Martin went 1 for 5 from the field in the 105-103 loss to the Nuggets. He missed his first four attempts and finished with three points and four turnovers. Perhaps even more distressing was that Martin hoisted just five shots in 24:21 of playing time.
If Martin was going to help Thunder folk forget James Harden, he certainly wasn't going to do it taking five measly shots.
Afterward, Martin was the most visibly upset player inside the Thunder locker room. His stall was located in a corner and Martin had turned his chair around to face the wall. It was as though Martin had just sentenced himself to a “timeout,” like a kid in elementary school.
Martin answered questions in barely more than a whisper.
“I put a lot of the blame on myself, if you want to put that out there,” Martin said. “It was just a really bad outing for me. I'm supposed to be a leader on that second group and I played like a rookie tonight. I'm going to put that on my plate for the second unit.”
Roughly 36 hours later, the Thunder posted its most impressive road victory of the season with a 108-104 survival against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Martin again struggled, missing his first six attempts and shooting just 3 for 12 from the field – 1 for 7 on 2-pointers (a layup) and 2 for 5 on 3-pointers. He ended up with 10 points and four steals in 23:47.
Afterward, Martin's smile had returned, no doubt thanks to the victory, not his shooting.
“I think a lot of people individually were pretty mad about their performance on Friday, especially me,” Martin said.
But there was more Martin wanted to share.
“I got a lot support from this team in the past 48 hours,” Martin said. “That last game really wasn't me. Team management and the players came up and stood by my side these past two days and it's something I'll never forget. I know I'm here to be the best player I can, whether that's scoring or making the right play.”
Thunder at Knicks
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
TV: TNT (Cox 31/HD 730, DirecTV 245, Dish 138, U-Verse 108/HD 1108)
Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1, WWLS-AM 640
Three things to know
* While the Thunder was in New York City on Wednesday night resting for the game, the Knicks played at Detroit.
* Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is day-to-day with a sore knee. He and Kevin Durant are 1-2 for the scoring title.
* This is the first meeting between OKC and New York. The second will be April 7 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.