The New York Knicks have consistently held opponents to less than 100 points over the past month, but defensive breakdowns cost them a win as their latest foe reached triple digits.
Durant’s 40-point performance lifted the Oklahoma City Thunder in their latest game, and he will look to lead his team to an eighth win in 10 games as they host the improving Knicks on Monday night.
Oklahoma City (20-16) is the only club that boasts one of the NBA’s top four scorers and does not average 100 points, but Durant made sure the Thunder hit that mark Saturday night.
Durant - averaging 28.7 points - didn’t touch the ball on a critical final possession in a 97-92 loss to New Orleans on Wednesday, but he took over in the fourth quarter against struggling Indiana. With the Thunder clinging to a 93-92 lead with five minutes left, Durant scored 10 of his season high-tying 40 points down the stretch in a 108-102 win.
“That’s part of winning basketball and K.D. is a winner,” coach Scott Brooks told the NBA’s official Web site. “He has to make winning plays, he did a good job of finding his shot and also passing the ball.”
Oklahoma City improved to 9-4 when Durant scores at least 32, averaging 105.0 points in those games - 10.3 more than it averages when Durant scores 31 or fewer.
“I told myself (after the New Orleans game) to be aggressive and whatever happens happens,” said Durant, who has three 40-point games this season. “I know our team has to live with that and I will, too. That’s another step in me becoming a better player.”
The Knicks (15-21) have allowed opposing players to score 32 or more eight times, but not once in the last 20 games. They have allowed 96.5 points per game in going 12-7 since yielding 109.2 during a 3-14 start.
New York gave up 100 for just the third time since Dec. 6 on Saturday and lost as a result. The Knicks shot above 50 percent for the fourth straight game, but let Houston score 84 points over the final three quarters in a 105-96 defeat that snapped their three-game winning streak.
“We should’ve won this game,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They started scoring every time in the second half and we didn’t shut them down. Our defense wasn’t as good as it should’ve been.”
New York is 11-5 when it holds an opponent to less than 100 points.
Though the Knicks had an impressive shooting night, they were 7 of 20 from 3-point range, a low number of attempts for a team that averages 27.0 per game - second-most in the NBA.
New York, however, struggles when it takes too many 3-pointers. D’Antoni’s team is 12-6 when it attempts between 23 and 27, but 2-11 when it takes 28 or more.
Danilo Gallinari(notes) leads the league in 3-point attempts and is shooting 40.8 percent. Al Harrington(notes) - also among the top 10 in 3 attempts while connecting on 29.5 percent - has missed the past two games with a strained left calf.