By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Thunder | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 2:30 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (9-18): The Knicks went down to Orlando on Monday and, after building up a 25-point lead before watching it shrink to one when Carmelo Anthony left with a sprained ankle, emerged with a gritty road win. Tyson Chandler (10 points and 13 rebounds in 40 minutes) will be counted on again to provide leadership and a paint presence that the team sorely lacked during his absence. J.R. Smith seems to be breaking out of his early season slump after an 18-point, 10-rebound showing against the Magic.
Oklahoma City (22-5): James Harden is long gone and Russell Westbrook was out to start the season, but that hasn't stopped the Thunder from jumping out to one of the league's best records so far. They rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, led by the NBA's top scorer (Kevin Durant) and their explosive point guard, Westbrook. Dynamic big man Serge Ibaka conitnues to progress as one of the league's premier defensive players, and in guard Reggie Jackson, rookie center Steven Adams and second-year wing Jeremy Lamb, there is an abundance of young depth to fortify this Western Conference powerhouse.
The Numbers Game
In three games since returning from a fractured fibula, Chandler is averaging 9.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in 36.4 minutes per game. The Knicks are 2-1 during this time.
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Kevin Durant
The matchup everyone will be watching -- the main reason why the NBA picked the Knicks and Thunder as one of its primetime Christmas Day games -- will be between Melo and Durant. Last season, Anthony edged out Durant for the league's scoring crown. This year, Durant (28.1 ppg) has jumped out to a lead but Melo (26.3) is right behind him. Both possess the ability to dominate with their all-around games, but the fans will be tuning in to watch two of the best scorers on the planet fill it up.
What to Look For
Of course, Melo has to play in order for the showdown to live up to its top billing. He is listed as a game-time decision, although he sounded encouraged after the Orlando win, saying "I don't want to miss Christmas at the Garden." Raymond Felton, who tweaked a groin against the Magic, has been ruled out for this one, meaning Beno Udrih and perhaps Toure' Murry could handle the primary ball handling duties. Kenyon Martin (strained abdominal muscle), is listed as questionable.