NBA Thursday Liveblog: 3/7/13

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Join myself and Demarcus Robinson as we liveblog two key NBA matchups this evening between the Knicks and Thunder and Nuggets and Clippers.

Mark Travis - 1:16 AM ET

Thanks everybody for joining Demarcus and I again for this liveblog! We hoped you enjoyed it as much as we did!

Mark Travis - 1:07 AM ET

This one looks over. The Nuggets have completely owned this season half and have held the Clippers to 12 points in the fourth quarter so far. Los Angeles continues to struggle in getting good looks out of their offense and has to rely on a 3-2 zone defense to gets stops. Things are not looking up for VDN and company.

Mark Travis - 12:56 AM ET

The Clippers had it down to single digits momentarily, but they are back down 12 with half of the fourth quarter in the rearview mirror. I am not sure their offense can muster enough good looks in the final six minutes against such a frantic defensive team.

Mark Travis - 12:31 AM ET

The Nuggets have taken their offense to another level with an influx of threes and transition buckets while the Clippers are falling back into their stagnant ISO heavy attack that has started to develop over the past month or so. Good defensive teams have forced them into some really inefficient looks and that is what the Nuggets have done to build this double digit lead.

Mark Travis - 12:00 AM ET

We had a really slow first half, with each team getting 45 possessions each, putting them on pace for a 90 possession game, which is equal to the Nets league low average of 90 possessions per game. LA’s zone effectively slowed the game down and created some running opportunities for their offense to score easy buckets. I’ve been impressed by Matt Barnes and Wilson Chandler and how they have worked around the floor so far and I am hoping that Chris Paul (2 points, 1-of-4 shooting, though he has 7 assists) and Lawson (2 points on 1-of-6 shooting, though he has 6 assists) step up their games in the second half.

Mark Travis - 11:36 PM ET

Neither team is getting to the FT line very much so far in the game.

I think the Clips’ zone has really cut down on Denver’s penetration so far and most of their baskets near the rim have come on cuts and not drives. I think that has a lot to do with the low free throw total as well as Los Angeles getting a few of their paint buckets on wide open transition opportunities.

Mark Travis - 11:26 PM ET

The Clippers have done a good job of disrupting any kind of an offensive flow for the Nuggets and have played a solid game in transition. Barnes already has 11 points simply by finding holes in the defenses and cutting into them.

Mark Travis - 11:15 PM ET

The Clippers went to a zone against the Thunder when they were down big in the fourth quarter as a last resort. They display it as a strategic scheme here tonight in the first quarter against the Nuggets’ It’s a 3-2 zone with a lot of long arms and smart defenders. Will really hurt the Nuggets and their inability to hit outside shots consistently.

Mark Travis - 10:56 PM ET

I told Brett Koremenos on our podcast earlier today that I think the Nuggets have surpassed the Clippers as the third best team in the Western Conference lately. I am excited for this matchup.

Mark Travis - 10:52 PM ET

Smith misses a turnaround fadeaway from the post and the Thunder win 95-94. Gutty effort from the Knicks with Carmelo out. J.R. was huge but Amare couldn’t pick up that secondary load to get the Knicks over the hump.

Mark Travis - 10:50 PM ET

Durant misses a mid-range jumper and the Knicks are alive again. 7.9 seconds left, Thunder up 95-94. New York went to J.R. Smith and got a great look at a three on their last possession, but now a two wins it. Do you go pick-and-roll again or ask J.R. to win it on a hero shot like he has twice before this season?

Mark Travis - 10:46 PM ET

Westbrook missed a pull-up jumper badly and the Knicks are within one with 38.6 left in the game. I wonder who gets the ball in their hands here. I would be OK with Felton or Smith initiating the action, although part of me feels that Smith will end up taking a bad shot rather than running through a pick-and-roll set whereas Felton will attack to the get the best possible look. We’ll see.

Mark Travis - 10:40 PM ET

Unexpectedly, Chandler didn’t sub back in, but the Knicks do go to a Felton/Amare pick-and-roll, which nets a pair of free throws for Stoudemire.

Mark Travis - 10:37 PM ET

Durant is headed to the line with his Thunder down one with two minutes to go. I’d like to see the Knicks get some high pick-and-roll going here with Felton and Chandler with Amare and Smith waiting on the weakside for some secondary action. I think they need to get OKC’s defense shifting from side to side here because so far in the second half their offense has allowed the Thunder to really dig in without rotating much. Stopping Durant on the other end with Jason Kidd on him? That I am not so sure about.

Mark Travis - 10:28 PM ET

The Thunder hold an 87-85 lead over the Knicks with 6:26 to play. The Knicks have had trouble scoring this quarter since J.R. Smith has cooled off a bit. They are trying to get Amare going and have given a couple of mid-post touches on their last two plays. We will see if Amare can carry them down the stretch, because it appears as if J.R. will have his shots limited a bit with the length of Kevin Durant on him.

Mark Travis - 10:10 PM ET

J.R. Smith is scorching hot. He’s got 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting with five three-pointers, the latest of which was a 28-footer over two defenders. The Knicks were once 1-of-14 from the field in that third quarter, but Smith’s re-insertion into the game sparked the Knicks; they won the quarter 25-16 and lead the Thunder 81-75 as we enter the fourth quarter.

Mark Travis - 10:04 PM ET

I thought Kenyon Martin would play a role in this game, but playing the small forward spot alongside Chandler and Amare when Durant isn’t even in the game? Yeah, this is interesting.

Mark Travis - 10:02 PM ET

The Knicks just went on a spirited run that has galvanized this Garden crowd. There was a monster dunk by Amare and a few more typical J.R. Smith shots as well as some solid defense from New York, who now lead the Thunder by four.

Mark Travis - 9:58 PM ET

pr Here is a simple side screen and roll that the Knicks just ran with the unit that started the second half for them. They have the floor spaced in the corners with Amare being a threat from 20 feet on the baseline and James White being a threat from the right corner. That means the help to contain Felton’s dribble penetration will come from Iman Shumpert. Westbrook is able to slide over to the free throw line comfortably because he doesn’t respect Shumpert’s shot and the Thunder are fine with him recovering a bit late rather than asking their four man to come up from Amare. The result of the possession is a wide open three – but it is a wide open three for a player that is shooting 32% from three on his career and Shumpert is 0-for-3 tonight.

Shumpert has been better this year overall (37%) but he needs to be a consistent knockdown three-point shooter if he’s going to play big minutes for the Knicks, because he has not shown to be much of an off-the-dribble creator so far in his career.

Mark Travis - 9:41 PM ET

Just like he did against Cleveland, Mike Woodson has started the second half with Amare at power forward, this time replacing Kurt Thomas. Let’s see if the Knicks get him involved at the elbows and on the move as he has been having trouble attacking Ibaka straight up.

Mark Travis - 9:26 PM ET

J.R. Smith has been lights out this half, following a trend that has been developing this season (he has done a really good job replacing Carmelo’s scoring when has been out). Smith has 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting and really carried the Knicks in that second quarter. He played so well offensively that the Knicks were able to keep Kenyon in the game for his defense and rest Amare (only 11 minutes in the first half). A fresh Stoudemire in the fourth quarter will be huge. The Thunder have played a decent game but New York has not backed down an inch despite missing their best player.

Mark Travis - 9:17 PM ET

I’m not sure why it took so long for Martin to get a job. I thought he was solid defensively last season; he played 939 minutes for the Clippers last and made their defense about five points better per 100 possessions when he was on the floor. He wasn’t good on offense for the Clippers but that is because their half-court offense had horrid spacing. With these Knicks I think he can find space to cut to the rim and things of that nature even though he is only on the floor for his defense.

Mark Travis - 9:08 PM ET

With Amare on the bench, the Knicks have relied heavily on J.R. Smith to score consistently for them, and he’s done a pretty good job. The Knicks are back within four of the Thunder with five left in the second quarter and Amare should be back in soon. It was funny to watch New York operate offensively on the last offensive possession with the Kidd-Smith-Novak-Martin-Chandler line-up on the floor; it was so clear that J.R. was the only guy that could hurt OKC and it took the Knicks 23 seconds to get a good look off (and the basket didn’t count because of an offensive interference call). With Felton back in, the Knicks have a secondary creator and could make a run hear to close out the half.

Mark Travis - 9:00 PM ET

The Knicks have been adamant about getting Amare the ball, which is how it should be without Carmelo. He hasn’t been tremendously effective, but he’s getting shots down low and drawing contact. I think he may be able to get Ibaka into foul trouble at some point. Meanwhile, Kenyon Martin has done a pretty good job on Durant defensively. That may be the greatest random prediction I’ve ever made.

Mark Travis - 8:50 PM ET

I did not think that the Knicks would heed my advice so early on in the game but we did see Kenyon Martin on Durant there for a couple of possessions. We’ll have to see how long New York sticks with that strategy. That wasn’t such an awful quarter for the Knicks until they started giving away points at the line in the final couple of minutes. Being down nine isn’t horrible, though, and they may get a break with Westbrook being the lockerroom with an ankle injury.

Mark Travis - 8:38 PM ET

Does Reggie Miller follow you on Twitter, Demarcus?

Mark Travis - 8:22 PM ET

Token starters James White and Kurt Thomas have knocked down the first pair of buckets for the Knicks. Their seems to be an underdog energy in the building for NYK.

Mark Travis - 8:12 PM ET

Hello all!

As Demarcus noted, this will be Amare Stoudemire’s night. I had a huge feature on him the other day and he has played extremely well of late. He’s coming off the bench again because Mike Woodson wants to perserve his first half rotation, but rest assured he will finish the game, and the Knicks will go to high pick-and-roll with Amare or Chandler late in the game to find offense. I want to see how effective that will be without Melo against an athletic defensive team. It killed Cleveland, but the Thunder are a different story.

OKC should win this game handily if they execute well. New York’s defense has really slipped of late and their best Kevin Durant stopper is now Durant’s teammate (Ronnie Brewer). I imagine Iman Shumpert will guard Russell Westbrook, which means guys like James White and J.R. Smith will be guarding Durant. If those two guys are getting torched, which is highly likely, I’d like to see the Knicks try to put Smith on Westbrook and Shumpert on Durant, or put Kenyon Martin in the game to have a shot at KD. At the end of the day, there will be no solution for guarding Durant unless he is missing shots, so the Thunder should take this one.

Mark Travis - 8:05 PM ET

Lil Penny!

Mark Travis is a 22-year old sportswriter that is currently majoring in Sports Media at Oklahoma State University. He started his own website, But The Game Is On, in 2008 as an outlet for his praise of Michael Crabtree and has since been credentialed by major organizations like the NBA, NFL, MLB, Nike and Team USA Basketball. He also covered the past two NBA Finals for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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