By Max Marcilla
Knicks 125 Thunder 120
Just in case the NBA world wasn’t convinced that the Knicks were contenders, a huge 125-120 win over the 56-21 Thunder has hopefully convinced them.
It wasn’t an easy win, nor was it New York’s best outing (especially defensively), but when a clutch basket was needed, they came through.
At the half, the Knicks had opened up a 9-point lead, led by their bench. However, the Knicks found themselves down 111-110 with 4:00 minutes remaining. The difference in the final score would be who would deliver in those last four minutes of the game.
As it turned out, it was the Knicks who came through. After baskets by Tyson Chandler and J.R Smith, the Knicks were on top 117-113. A big basket was needed to secure the game and give the Knicks the victory. That is exactly what they got.
Raymond Felton drove with the ball to the basket, slipped and the ball fell out of his hands. Just when the play looked like a disaster and a potential fast break for the Thunder, Felton turned the game around. He tipped the ball (from the ground) out to J.R Smith who was waiting beyond the three-point arc and with time on the shot clock running out, Smith connected on a 28-foot jumper, giving the Knicks a 7 point lead with just under a minute left.
Despite the late scoring surge from New York, it wasn’t just the success offensively in the final few minutes that propelled them to victory, but rather their efforts throughout the whole game.
Surprisingly, in the first half where the Knicks scored 65 points (the most in a single half allowed by Oklahoma City), the bench players were the reason for the success. The Knicks only had four players coming off the bench due to injuries, but they came through. In the first half, the Knicks bench scored 26 points led by Chris Copeland’s 13 points.
In the end, Copeland finished with 13, but the other bench players stepped up, including Jason Kidd, who had 4 three-pointers and finished with 14. Also contributing was Steve Novak who had 6 points. We of course cannot forget J.R Smith who added 22 points and has become the Robin to Melo’s Batman. Hopefully he can keep it going in the playoffs.
Yet, it was Carmelo Anthony who led the offense again for New York. Anthony didn’t reach 40+ points for the fourth straight outing, but he came pretty close, scoring 36 and passing Kevin Durant for the lead in points per game. Once again, Anthony has showed that he can be a scorer- not just a shooter, as he shot over 50% from the field and 3-6 from three-point land.
The Knicks also got key offensive contributions from Tyson Chandler. Since coming back from the injury, Chandler has shown improvement, but this was by far his best game. He played the pick-and-roll with Felton very effectively, as he finished with 15 points.
In a game where defense was NOT good at all from either teams, there was one difference-maker on the defensive end: The amount of turnovers. The Knicks, who are number one in the league for fewest turnovers, had only 6, while Oklahoma City had 13.
Game Notes: Kenyon Martin sat out today’s game with a sore left knee. With the win, the Knicks magic number is down to 1 to win the Atlantic. They can clinch with either a win Tuesday vs. Washington or a Nets loss Tuesday vs. Philadelphia. The Knicks are 2.5 games over the Indiana Pacers for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.
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