Carmelo Anthony #7

No 40 points night for Carmelo Anthony, but pretty close. On the individual level, he’s gone by Kevin Durant in the race for the scoring title, something both players seriously care about. The most important side of his recent scoring spree and the New York Knicks beating everyone in sight is that they’re once again being considered contenders in the East.

So can they beat the Miami Heat in a series? Most would say no, but after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in OKC, 125-120, in a game the Western Conference needed to win, why should we doubt them, or Carmelo Anthony, who won’t be winning the MVP award, but is putting on the best season of his career during one of the best stretches of his career?

He finished with 36 points, making it 41.7 points per game over his last four, while the Knicks won their 12th straight. With it, he passed Durant by 0.09 points in the race for the NBA scoring title, as Durant is going for his fourth while Anthony is gunning for his first. Even more impressively, Anthony is making 60.9% of his field goal attempts while averaging 8.3 rebounds and 56% from beyond the arc during this four-game stretch.

But for once, Anthony and J.R. Smith (with 22 points) weren’t the only Knicks worth mentioning in a game that the Thunder tried to make impossible for the Knicks by running, but smart ball movement and a deadly day from beyond the arc (15-34, 44.1%) made it impossible for the Knicks to actually lose to a better team. Tyson Chandler was efficient every time he got the ball in the paint against the lethargic Kendrick Perkins, Raymond Felton enjoyed a decent shooting day with 5-12 and 16 points to go with his 8 assists while Jason Kidd, Chris Copeland and Steve Novak did their best with some excellent outside shooting to keep up with a scorching Russell Westbrook.

Games these tight fall on single plays – J.R. Smith, who has been clutch more than once this season, picked up the ball just before a 24 second violation came to pass with the Knicks leading by one and 1:30 on the clock. He hit a three-pointer, giving the Knicks just enough of a cushion with a 117-113 lead to win the game. Russell Westbrook’s 37 points weren’t enough, followed by Kevin Durant with 27 on a bad shooting night. No need to panic for OKC, but the top spot in the West is slipping away. For the Knicks, the second spot in the East is almost guaranteed.

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