Knicks on the rise as Thunder come to town

NBA

Ten players will be on the court at all times Friday night when the New York Knicks host the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But if Wednesday night is any indication, the contest could turn into a one-on-one duel between the Knicks’ Austin Rivers and the Thunder’s Darius Bazley.

Both teams are looking to build off their exciting Wednesday wins.

The Knicks trailed by 18 points in the second quarter before coming back to beat the visiting Utah Jazz, 112-100. George Hill hit a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to give the Thunder a 111-110 win over the host New Orleans Pelicans.

While the Knicks never trailed in the fourth quarter, the finishing kick was delivered by Rivers, who scored 14 straight points for New York to put away the win. Rivers broke a 96-96 tie by sinking a 3-pointer with 4:16 left before adding a driving layup 33 seconds later and a trio of 3-pointers.

It was the second time in the last three games Rivers delivered in dramatic fourth-quarter fashion for the Knicks. Against the Indiana Pacers last Friday, he hit a 3-pointer to put New York ahead for good with 3:23 left and added a key insurance layup in the final minute of a 106-102 win.

“I love this stage,” said Rivers, who was acquired from the Houston Rockets in November. “I know every player says that when they come here, but I really do. I thrive on it. You have to be OK with missing a shot, making the wrong play. If you have the ball in your hands at the end of the game, you can’t worry about the makes and misses. You have to trust yourself and live with the outcome.”

While Hill delivered the winning points on Wednesday, the Thunder likely would not have been in position to earn the road victory without Bazley. He scored all the points in an 11-0 run by Oklahoma City that turned a 59-54 halftime deficit into a 65-59 lead in just 117 seconds.

It was almost literally a one-man show by Bazley, who began the run with a 3-pointer and an old-fashioned three-point play. He added another 3-pointer and a 17-foot jumper off his own defensive rebound.

“He’s done that recently where he’s gone on these little flurries and gotten into a nice rhythm,” first-year Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of Bazley, who had 15 points and five rebounds in the third and finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds. “He’s still learning. He’s smoothing his game out. He’s learning how to become a consistent player.”

The Knicks have won three straight and five of their last six games.

Oklahoma City won the only meeting last season, a 126-103 decision in New York on March 6.

–Field Level Media

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