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J.R. Smith scores 36 but can't hit shot to win it as Knicks fall to Thunder

Knicks' J.R. Smith drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's

Knicks' J.R. Smith drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka during the first half. (March 7, 2013) Credit: AP

J.R. Smith seemed as if he couldn't miss for the first three quarters of the game and had the Knicks -- without Carmelo Anthony -- on the verge of an upset of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But although Smith scored a season-high 36 points, he misfired twice in the closing seconds. On his last try, a turnaround, step-back jumper over Russell Westbrook, Smith shot long with 1.8 seconds left and the Thunder escaped the Garden last night with a 95-94 victory.

"I just tried to get the ball to go in no matter what," Smith said. "I really had the whole middle and didn't really have that much room on the baseline. I feel the left side is my best side and I feel more comfortable with it."

Smith has been successful from that spot this season and in similar situations. He hit buzzer-beating game-winning jumpers from the left side in Charlotte and Phoenix. But it didn't fall this time, spoiling what would have been a terrific night for him and the Knicks.

They battled without Anthony, who missed his second consecutive game with a sore/stiff right knee that Mike Woodson said has some fluid in it. Woodson said Anthony is day-to-day. The Knicks' next game is Saturday night against Utah.

After Kevin Durant missed a jumper with nine seconds left, the Knicks called timeout and drew up a play. Woodson designed it for Smith to create. But Woodson wasn't happy with how the Knicks ran it or the shot Smith took.

"We got the movement, but it was so sluggish the way we got into it," Woodson said. "We didn't fire off of it like we should have. I was trying to get guys to go in a different direction. The play was for J.R. But once he actually caught it, he looked up at the clock and when he caught it and faced, he could have just gone with it because everybody was plugged into their guys.

"He could have ripped through it and went to the rim. But he didn't and settled for the jump shot. He's made a couple of those here in the past that have won games for us going that way.

"It was a hell of a game. They played their hearts out and played one of the best teams in the league.''

Smith also missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer with 32 seconds left.

This loss stung the Knicks (37-22) because they had the defending Western Conference champs on the ropes. The Knicks ended the third quarter on a 21-10 run and led 81-75 on a night the Thunder (45-16) wasn't at its best.

But the Knicks missed having their closer, Anthony, in the fourth quarter. They made only four field goals in the quarter, the last one a layup by Raymond Felton with 2:58 left. They didn't score in the final 1:50 after two free throws by Amar'e Stoudemire put them up 94-93.

"We just didn't make a shot," Stoudemire said. "It boils down to that. We played great defensively. We made the stops that we needed. We just didn't follow through."

Durant finished with a quiet 34 points, eight rebounds, six assists and seven turnovers. He scored 12 in the fourth, including two foul shots with 1:38 left that were the final points of the game. Westbrook had 21 points, but just six in the final three quarters.

Stoudemire, who led the Knicks to wins in the previous two games, missed 10 of his first 12 shots and finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Felton also had 16 points.

Smith was on fire in the middle two quarters, scoring 18 points in the second to lead the Knicks back from 10 down and adding 13 in the third.

He shot 14-for-29 overall (6-for-13 from outside the arc) but was 2-for-9 in the fourth.

"That's a great team and we were a man down," Smith said. "If we play with that type of effort and intensity, it's going to be tough for a lot of teams to beat us."

New York Sports