OKLAHOMA CITY - The NBA's two best scorers squared off Sunday. Carmelo Anthony struggled to put the ball in the basket, and Kevin Durant showed he can do that and so much more.
Durant had 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and played smothering defense on Anthony to lead the Thunder to a 112-100 victory over the Knicks at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
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"He makes it look easy," Anthony said. "When he gets it going like that, he's hard to stop."
Durant, who leads the NBA with 31.2 points per game to Anthony's 27.1, has emerged as the MVP front-runner and has the Thunder atop the Western Conference at 41-12. He's always been a dominant scorer, but his playmaking and defense have improved.
"In order for us to be a good team,'' Durant said, "I have to be a two-way player, and I've realized that these past few years."
The Knicks (20-31) had no answer, especially with Anthony struggling to score against Durant and a defense that loaded up on him. Anthony (15 points) shot 5-for-19 and didn't have a field goal in the fourth quarter for the second time in three games. His only point in the fourth came on a technical foul shot.
"I wasn't able to score for the whole game," Anthony said. "It was just one of those games, man. [Durant] was telling me the object of the game was not to let me touch it and not to let me sniff it. Every time I get it, send two or three guys at me. It worked."
Although the Knicks played competitively for most of the game, they have lost four of five. They play one more game before the All-Star break, Wednesday at home against the Kings, which could be an important one for Mike Woodson's future.
Rumors persist that he could be on his last legs as Knicks coach. But Woodson said he "absolutely" expects to be coaching the Knicks after the All-Star break and that he has the support of the organization.
After falling behind by 12 in the final minute of the third quarter, the Knicks drew within six points four times early in the fourth. The last time was 92-86 after two free throws by Tyson Chandler with 8:29 left.
But it wasn't only Anthony's shots that didn't fall. The Knicks misfired on nine of their next 10 and fell behind 105-90 on Serge Ibaka's jumper with 2:48 left.
It was a rough game all the way around for Anthony, who ran into a hard pick by 6-10, 280-pound Kendrick Perkins late in the game. Anthony said he "didn't feel it at all." But he was bothered by his overall performance and a play in the first quarter that he thought set the wrong tone.
Durant, who scored most of his points against Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, blew past Raymond Felton for a dunk in transition less than five minutes into the game. After the play, Anthony could be seen telling Felton he should have fouled Durant.
"I think early in the game, the object is to take away layups, no easy baskets," Anthony said. "Just try to make it as hard as possible for him to score. We know he's going to score, but the times we have a chance to stop that, we have to stop that, and I think early in the game, we didn't do that."
Things were so much more difficult for Anthony. He missed his first four shots, was 1-for-6 in the first quarter and never got in a rhythm. He was 2-for-10 in the second half with eight points.
"Sometimes your best players miss shots," Woodson said. "It happens. Melo's been pretty damn good for our ballclub this season, so I don't worry about that."
Anthony often doesn't get enough from his supporting cast. But Felton and Amar'e Stoudemire each had 16 points and Shumpert hit four three-pointers. Anthony's teammates shot 33-for-67 (49.3 percent).
"They made shots," he said. "I didn't really give anything on the offense end. So from that standpoint, I'll take the blame."