Carmelo Anthony scores 36 as Knicks beat Thunder for 12th straight win and 50th of season
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Carmelo Anthony's streak of scoring at least 40 points was snapped at three games Sunday, but the Knicks extended their winning streak to 12 and legitimized their place as a championship contender.
If the Knicks, who reached 50 wins for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, didn't already have everyone's attention, this win had to make the rest of the NBA take notice.
"We was always convinced that we was a good team in this NBA, we was one of the top teams that's out there," said Anthony, who had 36 points and 12 rebounds. "Our confidence would always have us believing that we're one of the better teams in the NBA."
In a six-day stretch, the Knicks (50-26) beat the defending champion Heat on their home court and the Finals runner-up on theirs. Miami was without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but the way Anthony and the Knicks are rolling, it might not have mattered if they had played.
The Knicks probably wish the playoffs started today. "[We're] just a great team getting it all together at the right time," said J.R. Smith, who scored 22 points.
The Knicks lead the Nets by six games with six to play and have a magic number of one to clinch the Atlantic Division title. They can capture their first division title since 1993-94 as soon as Tuesday night. They're 2 1/2 games ahead of Indiana and have a magic number of four to lock up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
"I'm looking at the big picture," Mike Woodson said. "This is all great. We can accomplish winning our division, securing that second spot. The next step is trying to win a title. I'm in it for that and that only."
Smith, who got pulled early in the game for missing a defensive assignment, hit back-to-back huge baskets to secure the win.
He drained a step-back jumper to put the Knicks up 117-113 with 1:30 to play. On the next trip, Raymond Felton got in the lane, slipped and batted the ball out to Smith. He nailed a 28-foot three-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire to make it 120-113 with 56.8 seconds to go.
"It was kind of crazy because I thought Ray was going to get the layup, so I started going backward toward half-court to try to get back on defense," Smith said.
"It was a nail in the coffin," Anthony said.
The Knicks led by 12 early in the third quarter, but Westbrook's fast-break layup gave the Thunder a 111-110 lead with four minutes left.
Chandler scored inside to give the Knicks the lead for good and blocked a shot by Westbrook before Anthony tipped in his own miss for a 114-111 Knicks lead. Westbrook's pull-up jumper made it 115-113, but Smith hit his two big baskets and the Knicks put the Thunder away.
"A lot of people was counting us out, a lot of people was saying that we was going to lose this game," Felton said. "It's a good win in that sense, to close and shut a lot of mouths up."