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Thunder falls flat after half vs. Knicks

Luguentz Dort initiated the Thunder’s offense against the Knicks with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out. [Alonzo Adams, USA TODAY Sports]
Luguentz Dort initiated the Thunder’s offense against the Knicks with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out. [Alonzo Adams, USA TODAY Sports]

The Thunder started the second half Saturday with two rookies, a two-way player and Luguentz Dort and Al Horford on the floor.

Without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and George Hill available, the Thunder’s 119-97 loss to the Knicks had the feel of a development game for OKC’s young players.

New York outscored OKC by 20 points in the second half after the Thunder built a quick 10-point lead in the first quarter.

Isaiah Roby was in the original starting lineup Saturday, but 21-year-old Moses Brown started over Roby in the second half.

“Changing the lineup at halftime is something I’ve done before and I like doing on occasion,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I thought tonight was a good time to take a swing at it.”

Horford slid over to power

forward and Brown, listed at 7-foot-1, played center. Seven-foot rookie Aleksej Pokusevski played small forward.

“I told Roby before the game that I was gonna look at doing that possibly,” Daigneault said. “And the reason is pretty simple. We were hoping to kind of maul ‘em up front a little bit. We posted the ball to Al the first possession, and we wanted to try to play at the basket for maybe two or three minutes with those guys out there together and try to create a physicality advantage, and then come back with Isaiah and then get back to the regular rotation.”

Brown had nine points and nine rebounds in the loss.

“Moses, he’s a force in the paint,” Roby said. “He kinda brings a different element to our team that we haven’t had all year. All our centers — me, Al, Mike (Muscala) — we’re not big forces in the paint like Moses is. He brings a different dynamic to our defense and to our offense.”

Brown and Pokusevski, who both recently rejoined the Thunder from the G League bubble, combined for 57 minutes in the loss.

Pokusevski shot 2-of-11 from the floor and 0-of-6 from 3-point range.

The rotations certainly signaled that the second half of the season could feel more like a rebuild than the first half did. Muscala sat for the second straight game, as priority was given to Brown at center.

Here are four other takeaways from the game:

Knicks’ Barrett sets career high

RJ Barrett scored a career-high 32 points in New York’s win. The second-year guard did it while being defended early on by Dort, a fellow Canadian.

Julius Randle added 26 points for the Knicks and Immanuel Quickley scored 21 points off the bench.

The Knicks shot 14-of-35 (40%) from behind the arc. Barrett, Randle and Quickley each made three 3-pointers. Reggie Bullock was 4-of-11 from 3-point range.

Dort gets to line

Dort had a well-rounded game with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, but he shot just 2-of-9 from the floor.

Dort did his damage from the free throw line. He attempted a career-high 10 foul shots, and he was a perfect 10-of-10.

Dort shared lead-guard duties with rookie Theo Maledon.

“It felt good,” Dort said. “Obviously it’s something I gotta get better at. I feel like it’s gonna happen game-by-game.”

Daigneault saw the game as a chance for Dort to handle the ball more with Gilgeous-Alexander out.

“He’s wired to be physical on his drive,” Daigneault said. “One area where he needs to improve is around the basket with his finishing and also his contact drawing. I thought he had a nice floor game tonight … He challenged Nerlens (Noel) one time, and he knows better than that one after having played with him. Other than that I thought he had a really good game.”

Second chances

The Thunder allowed the Knicks too many extra chances, both in the offensive rebounding and turnover departments.

New York outscored OKC 18-3 in second chance points. The Knicks had a 12-5 advantage in offensive rebounds.

The Knicks outscored the Thunder 18-10 in points off turnovers.

Gilgeous-Alexander (left quad) out

Gilgeous-Alexander was out with a left quad contusion, but the leg injury didn’t keep the Thunder guard from standing most of the game as he cheered from the bench.

Bazley (left shoulder contusion), Hill (right thumb surgery) and Hall (left knee soreness) were also out.

“No update yet,” Daigneault said on the status of Gilgeous-Alexander and Bazley for Sunday. “They’re being evaluated day-to-day. If it was more serious and a longer timetable we’d let you know that.”

The Knicks were missing Elfrid Payton, Mitchell Robinson, Derrick Rose and Austin Rivers.