The Knicks can now put to rest any clamor about the legitimacy of their winning streak, as they went into Oklahoma City and knocked off the Thunder, 125-120.
Carmelo Anthony went over the 30-point mark for the fourth straight game, and helped the Knicks (50-26) win their 12th straight game as the Knicks have regained that early-season swagger and are now once again a legitimate NBA title contender.
Anthony won his personal duel over Kevin Durant, 36-27, but did more than just score, as he also added a game-high 12 rebounds. Anthony’s newfound prolific sidekick, J.R. Smith, added 22 points, including a back-breaking straightaway 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining to basically put the game to rest. He also added seven rebounds and four assists.
The Thunder (56-21) were led by Russell Westbrook, who did all he could to keep Oklahoma City in the game as he finished with 37 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. He was a problem for New York all game as he tallied 12 points (5-of-12 shooting) in the first half and then erupted for 14 points (5-of-8) in the third quarter, to help the Thunder keep pace.
Ultimately, the Knicks had too many weapons to contend with, as their hot shooting from behind the arc (44.1 percent on 15-of-34 shooting) and timely rebounds (41-37 advantage) proved to be too much.
New York’s 125 points were also a season high, as they’ve now gained firm control of the Atlantic Division, with their magic number being just one.
What we learned …
1. Big impact
Tyson Chandler didn’t produce his usual All-Star worthy numbers, but he did enough to offset the Thunder’s big frontline of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Chandler, who’s been battling bulging neck pain, came into the game leading the league with four offensive rebounds per game and finished with three on the offensive glass. He finished with 15 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
2. Reserve’s reservoir of points
Thanks to Smith, the Knicks’ bench will usually out-produce their opponent’s bench. New York’s bench bested Oklahoma City’s 55-30. Smith was great again as he tallied 22 points off the pine. But Smith wasn’t alone, as Jason Kidd added 14 points (four 3-pointers), six rebounds and two steals and was his usual savvy self as he also had several key moments that won’t show up in the box sheet including supreme boxing out of the Thunder star point guard Westbrook, tipped passes that led to open shots and making the key extra pass. Chris Copeland was also stellar off the bench as he added 13 points, including two 3-pointers.
3. Night of marks
Anthony wasn’t the only one to have a special afternoon, temporarily taking over the league’s scoring lead, but the win also marked the first time since 1999-00 that the Knicks won 50 games. Head coach Mike Woodson also became the fastest Knicks coach to win 100 games as the Knicks are just one game away from clinching the Atlantic Division title and have regained firm control of the all-important No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.