New York Knicks: Oklahoma City Thunder

Rapid Reaction: Knicks 125, Thunder 120

April, 7, 2013

WHAT IT MEANS: Sunday's game was billed as a matchup between Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, the top two scorers in the NBA.

But it turned into the J.R. Smith Show late in the fourth quarter.

Smith sealed the Knicks' 125-120 win with two huge shots in the final 90 seconds. He hit a deep jumper to give New York a four-point lead with 1:30 to play, and followed that with a 28-foot 3 at the end of the shot clock on the next possession to give the Knicks a comfortable seven-point edge.

New York has won 12 straight, the team's longest win streak since 1994 and the third-longest in franchise history.

The Knicks also have 50 wins for the first time since 1999-2000 and are one win or one Nets loss away from their first Atlantic Division title since 1994.

MELO VS. KD: Anthony passed Durant for the lead in the NBA scoring race.

Anthony, who entered Sunday just 0.05 points per game behind Durant, poured in 36 points on 15-for-29 shooting. Durant scored 27 points.

Anthony gave the Thunder trouble in the paint all afternoon. He finished with 12 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end.

BIG DAY FOR BENCH: The Knicks got 55 points from the bench. Smith led the way with 22 points and was joined by Jason Kidd (14 points), Chris Copeland (13, all in the first half) and Steve Novak (six).

Smith missed seven of nine 3-point attempts but made his final try, which sealed the win for New York, which nearly squandered a 12-point fourth-quarter lead.

BIG DAY FOR CHANDLER: Tyson Chandler looked as healthy as he has since coming back from a recent neck injury. The All-Star center finished with 15 points and five rebounds in 39 minutes.

Raymond Felton scored 16 points and dished out eight assists, and poked the ball out to Smith on his big 3 with a minute to play.

Russell Westbrook led the way for OKC with 37 points. Serge Ibaka had 13 points and five blocks.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks will take on the Washington Wizards at home on Tuesday.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Halftime Report: Knicks 65, Thunder 56

April, 7, 2013
The Knicks are in Oklahoma City with their 11-game winning streak on the line. The game was billed as a battle between two of the game's top scorers, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.

But the first half was a showcase for ... Chris Copeland?

Yes, the Knicks reserve forward went off in the first 24 minutes. He posted 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 13 minutes and filled in at the center position for the second unit.

Even more impressive? Copeland did some of his damage against OKC forward Nick Collison, a solid defender. It's unclear how much Copeland will be available in the second half, though, because he picked up his third foul with three seconds left in the second quarter.

Anthony, who entered play 0.05 points per game behind Durant for the scoring title, had 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Durant scored 12 on 3-for-8 shooting.

NOT MUCH D: If you like watching the Knicks play defense, the first half wasn't for you. New York allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 52.6 percent in the half, including 71.4 percent (5-for-7) on 3s. The Knicks shot 51 percent and hit 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) from beyond the arc.

BIG-TIME BENCH PLAY: New York got 35 of its 65 points from the bench. Copeland led the way. Jason Kidd (9), J.R. Smith (8) and Steve Novak (6) filled out the score sheet. The Knicks also have just two turnovers, compared to seven from OKC.

Melo, Durant battle for scoring title

April, 7, 2013

Make no mistake: Carmelo Anthony has his eyes on an NBA title.

But for now, he's in a heated race for the NBA scoring title.

Thanks to an otherworldly scoring spree this week, Anthony trails Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant by just 0.05 points per game in the race for the NBA scoring crown.

Durant's Thunder will host Anthony's Knicks on Sunday afternoon (1 ET, ABC).

Just call it a showdown at the OKC Corral, NBA scoring-champ style.

Problem is, neither player seems to care much about the scoring title.

Durant told reporters this week that Anthony could "have" the crown.

"I'm sure he's going to take over," Durant said. "If it happens, cool."

The way Anthony's going, it might happen on Sunday afternoon.

The All-Star forward has averaged 37.4 points over the past five games to slice his deficit from 0.42 to 0.05 points per game.

Anthony also has three straight games of at least 40 points. His latest scoring barrage was on Friday night against Milwaukee, when he poured in 41 points to lift New York to its 11th straight win. Carmelo's 131 points over the past three games is the highest three-game total in the NBA this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The total is 10 more than Durant had from Jan. 18 to 21.

"He's special, that's all I can say," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said of Anthony on Friday.

But can he take the scoring title from Durant, the three-time defending champ?

The margin between Anthony and Durant is, historically speaking, incredibly slim.

In 1978, George Gervin finished 0.07 points per game ahead of David Thompson for the scoring title. Last season, Durant finished 0.17 points per game ahead of Kobe Bryant.

A few weeks ago, it would have been hard for even the most ardent Anthony supporter to think he'd be this close to Durant.

Anthony was mired in a shooting slump in early March and struggling with his shot. He had fluid drained from his right knee March 15 and has been a different player since, averaging 32.3 points on 49.1 percent shooting since the procedure.

"I give that [procedure] a lot of credit," Anthony said.

Knicks fans are no doubt grateful.

The procedure helped catapult Anthony back into the scoring race, and more importantly, it helped stabilize the Knicks' season.

New York has won 11 straight, holds a 1½-game lead for second place in the Eastern Conference and has all but locked up its first Atlantic Division title since 1994.

If Anthony wins the scoring title, he'll be the first Knick to do so since Bernard King in 1984-85.

"You want to be mentioned in the same breath as him," Anthony said.

He's almost there. All he has to do is score a few more points.

W2W4: Knicks vs. Thunder

March, 7, 2013
The Knicks have been solid against Western Conference teams at Madison Square Garden, winning nine of 12 games this season.

That success will be put to the test tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder (44-16), owners of the third-best record in the NBA.

Tipoff is at 8 p.m. Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

WILL THE D SHOW UP? Led by Kevin Durant (NBA-leading 28.6 points per game) and Russell Westbrook (32.2 ppg in the past five games), the Thunder boast one of the top offenses in the NBA. They average a league-high 110.7 points per 100 possessions and are lethal on the pick-and-roll.

The Knicks have struggled to contain the pick-and-roll for most of the season. They've also had a tough time containing opposing point guards.

Lately, though, they have improved on defense. New York is holding teams to 43.5 percent shooting and just 90.3 points in four games in March. On the season, the Knicks have allowed an average of 96 points per game on 46 percent shooting.

A key tonight will be their ability to slow down the OKC pick-and-roll and their penetration from the perimeter.

WILL MELO PLAY? Carmelo Anthony sat out Wednesday's game with a sore right knee, an injury he aggravated in the first half of Monday's game against Cleveland. He's questionable tonight.

Melo said earlier this week that his knee has been an issue for some time. His shooting percentage of late supports that idea.

In his past eight games, Melo is shooting 36.6 percent from the field and made just nine of 44 attempts (20.5 percent) from 3-point range. He had logged more than 40 minutes in nine of the 10 games before his injury in Cleveland.

So maybe Melo should sit this game out? What do you think?

THE STAT PACK: Much has been made of Mike Woodson's decision to keep Amar'e Stoudemire on the bench, particularly with Melo out due to a knee injury.

Regardless of Anthony's status for tonight's game, Stoudemire is likely to continue to come off the bench. And it seems to be working out just fine for both Stoudemire and the Knicks.

Stoudemire tied his season high with 22 points in 31 minutes in Wednesday's win at Detroit, in which the Knicks bench scored 50 points. New York has the third-best bench scoring differential in the NBA. It will likely need similar production tonight to have success against OKC, which has one of the lowest-scoring benches in the NBA.

TOO MANY TURNOVERS: One reason for the Knicks' early-season success was their ability to protect the ball. They averaged fewer than 11 turnovers per game in the first two months of the season. Lately, they've gotten sloppy: In four March games, they are averaging 16 turnovers. They coughed it up 20 times against Detroit on Wednesday. Is this the start of a troubling trend or a blip on the radar?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.



Carmelo Anthony
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2