By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — The past three seasons, Kevin Durant has taken on all comers. Whether it was LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, no matter who came after the Oklahoma City All-Star for the NBA scoring title, he found a way to hold them off.
Durant may have met his match this season. New York’s Carmelo Anthony was in full scoring-machine mode Sunday when the Knicks paid a visit to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Anthony scored 36 points and grabbed nine offensive rebounds to lead New York to a 125-120 win over Oklahoma City and extend the Knicks’ win streak to 12 games. He also took over the NBA scoring lead in the process.
“This is probably one of the biggest wins we’ve had in a long time,” Anthony said. “Just for the simple fact it was on the road, it was against a great Thunder team. For us to come out here and keep our composure on the road and win here. This is a tough place to win.”
It was only the second home loss since the All-Star break for the Thunder. Durant said the team is not ready to push the panic button.
“We have five more games to go,” Durant said. “We lost a tough one. This team shot the ball well, hit some tough shots all night. We forced them to shoot some tough ones, and they hit them.”
Despite that, it was a game Oklahoma City had its chances to take.
The Knicks (50-26) led 112-111 with 3:30 left in the game. Russell Westbrook, who had just scored four straight points, turned the ball over. Anthony made the Thunder (56-21) pay when he bulled his way to the basket and put back his own miss.
After a Raymond Felton free throw for New York, Westbrook knocked down a jumper to get Oklahoma City within 115-113. The Knicks’ J.R. Smith answered with consecutive 3-pointers to put the Thunder away.
“Just to get a win like this, it’s good for our confidence,” Felton said. “A lot of people were counting us out. A lot said we were going to lose this game. It’s a good win. It will shut a lot of mouths up in that perspective. It was a great win for us against a great team.”
Smith scored 22 points for New York off the bench. Tyson Chandler and Felton combined for 31.
Durant paced Oklahoma City with 27 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the field to go along with seven assists and four blocks. But he failed to score a point in final five minutes of the game.
Westbrook finished with 37 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kevin Martin added 15 points and Reggie Jackson chipped in with 13.
“I was just trying to stay in attack mode,” Westbrook said. “Keep them on their heels and make them guard us.”
New York has now hit the 50-win mark for the first time since the 1999-00 season.
The Knicks’ game plan early was simple. They were going to take the ball out of Durant’s hands at every opportunity with am automatic double team. Durant didn’t attempt a shot in the first quarter.
The tactic allowed other Oklahoma City players, such as Serge Ibaka, to find shots. He started the game 4 of 4 from the field and had four blocks as the Thunder led 31-30 after one quarter.
“Every time I caught the ball, it was a double team,” Durant said. “I know you guys like me to shoot a lot. But I can’t shoot over three people or two people sometimes. All night they were double in the post so I just tried to trust the pass to my teammates. I believe in them 100 percent.”
The combination of Chris Copeland and Anthony allowed New York to take a 65-56 advantage into halftime.
New York pushed its lead to 12 before Oklahoma City went on a run and closed to a point at 84-83. Westbrook paced the spurt with a couple of steals, several assists and 14 points.
Anthony responded with eight of the Knicks’ next 11 points, hitting two 3-pointers.
The Thunder trailed 96-89 heading into the fourth quarter.
“Not a lot of defense out there on our part,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “The thing that was concerning tonight, we just gave up too many offensive rebounds. When we did make them miss, they got 19 offensive rebounds and 23 put back points. That’s not good.”
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