NEW YORK — Soon after tip, a sense of inevitability swept over the Madison Square Garden crowd.
The arena was sold out, as it had been for the past 120 Knicks home games. And it was buzzing in pregame, with a cheery Christmas vibe sweeping the stands.
But once play began, the knowledgeable New York fans had a clear sense of what was coming.
Carmelo Anthony was out. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were in. And the revved up Thunder would roll right past the depleted Knicks, leading to a 123-94 Christmas Day laugher in the Big Apple, representing the largest road win in the NBA's history on this historic holiday.
“I said that to somebody on the bench,” Durant explained when asked if this was the quietest he'd ever heard MSG. “Felt like nobody was in here.”
For a brief portion of the first quarter, the Knicks stuck with the Thunder. But OKC's star play, supreme ball movement and loaded rotation became far too much, far too quickly.
Three minutes in, it was 8-6 Knicks. Seven minutes in, it was 18-18. At the end of the first quarter, it was 35-29 Thunder. By halftime, it had stretched to 60-46.
And by the end of the third, it was 87-67, with it only to get worse as Durant and Westbrook watched the final 12 minutes from the bench.