Before tipoff, this one looked pretty simple. Contain both Carmelo Anthony and J. R. Smith, and the Knicks fall. Contain neither of them, and the Knicks win easily. That leaves an intermediate position, and that’s the way it was looking with a minute and a half left, with ‘Melo at 31 and Smith at a modest 17 and OKC, having grabbed a brief one-point lead shortly before, was down only two. Then Smith rattled off five points in two shots in 31 seconds, and that was pretty much it: in the next 31 seconds, New York was up by eight, and the Thunder never got to within a single possession again. The Knicks go away with their twelfth straight win, 125-120, and perhaps good wishes from Loud City: can New York actually beat the hated Heat?
They did a pretty decent job of thrashing the Thunder, who shot nearly 58 percent and made nine of 17 treys; New York didn’t match those percentages, but they made it up in volume, getting 15 more shots, 17 more from outside. (Telltale statistic: Fifty-one three-pointers were attempted in this game, and the Knicks bagged two-thirds of them.) And New York had the rebounding advantage, 41-37 and 19-10 offensive. Did they get second-chance points? They were getting third-chance points.
Smith finished with 22, Anthony with 36 (and 12 rebounds), Tyson (we coulda had him) Chandler with 15. Pablo Prigioni started at the two in place of the ailing Amar’e Stoudemire, but it was the ultra-deep New York bench Smith, Jason Kidd, Chris Copeland that did the heavy lifting.
And it was another time for the Thunder to get numbers, but not much else. Russell Westbrook’s last-second trey, useless as it was, gave him a game-high 37; he finished two assists short of a triple-double. Kevin Durant finished with a reasonably Durantean 27. The reserves did their part, both Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson collecting double figures. But some days you win with 95, some days you lose with 120.
The last road trip of the season approaches, and there’s not a patsy in the bunch: the Jazz, the Warriors and the Trail Blazers, three games over four nights. Nobody said this was going to be easy.