“I'm done talking about how good a talker he is, how he brings a different demeanor to our team because everybody knows that. His play is going to help us out. His 3-point shooting and spacing, his aggressive defense, I think that's going to help us out. I'm done talking about Fish the talker. It's more about him as a player for us now.”
Thursday's game became a toss-up after impressive runs from both teams.
The Thunder went on a 16-0 run in the first quarter after falling behind 13-7.
Trailing 65-60 midway through the third quarter, the Knicks went on a 15-4 run to take a six-point lead thanks to 13 points from J.R. Smith, who nearly outscored the Thunder (16 points; 30.0-percent shooting) in the period all by himself.
There wound up being five ties and 11 lead changes.
With all eyes riveted on Durant and Westbrook as usual, three other Thunder players excelled against the Knicks and made victory possible.
With OKC frequently using a smaller lineup, Ibaka played 40 minutes and had 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
“Serge was good,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He was defending. He was blocking shots. He got the offensive rebound that was huge. He's been aggressive all year, which is what he has to continue to do. This team is as hard to guard on pick-and-rolls as any team in the league. They've got a great point guard that loves to manipulate that screen-and-roll. I thought Serge was really good tonight.”
Martin broke out of shooting slump and buried 4 of 6 from the field (3 of 5 on 3-pointers) and also added four rebounds and four assists.
Point guard Reggie Jackson backed up Westbrook with eight points, including 2 for 2 from 3-point range.
Spotted in the crowd: Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Oliver Platt, David Duchovny, Emmy Rossum, Katie Couric, plus former Knicks Earl Monroe, Anthony Mason and John Starks.
BY JOHN ROHDE