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Knicks win13th straight to clinch Atlantic Division title

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks ran their season-high winning streak to 13 games and clinched the Atlantic Division title by knocking off the Washington Wizards 120-99 Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

New York (51-26) captured the division crown for the first time since 1993-94, and officially ended the Boston Celtics' five-year monopoly atop the division. The main reason for Tuesday night's division-clinching win was the play of Carmelo Anthony. The league's scoring leader led the way with a game-high 36 points as the Knicks cruised to the win.

Anthony, who added eight rebounds and six assists, became the first player since Kobe Bryant in 2006-07 to notch at least 35 points in five consecutive games.

Anthony's scoring streak was about the only drama, because determining the winner of the game was essentially confirmed by the end of the first quarter when the Knicks held a 36-23 lead after one quarter and were ahead 58-30 by halftime. The Knicks fell into a 2-0 deficit to start the game, but they never looked back after taking the lead for good just seconds later.

Knicks' head coach Mike Woodson has been difficult to impress, as he's always looking at the big picture. But he was even captivated with the play of his team -- specifically Anthony. Woodson could only shrug his shoulders during his post-game press conference when discussing his star's hot streak.

"I think Melo has been on a nice run, which is nice to see," Woodson said with a smile.

He quickly switched back into serious mode by adding that winning games certainly trumps all stats.

"I knew he was thinking more about winning the division than getting his numbers," Woodson offered. "He's trying to do it on both ends on the floor. Your best player must always make others around you better, and that's what's he's doing this season."

Conversely, the Wizards' best player, point guard John Wall, failed to make his complementary players better. The Wizards (29-49) got 33 points from Wall, but it was his failure to get others involved that ultimately doomed the team. Wall finished with a team-high 19 attempts (the next highest was 12 by Cartier Martin off the bench), but he had only three assists to four turnovers.

The Knicks had a well-rounded effort, as six players reached double figures. Iman Shumpert had 18 points -- a boost considering he went scoreless in Sunday's win at Oklahoma City -- while Chris Copeland added 17 points. Both Shumpert and Copeland knocked down four 3-pointers.

Jason Kidd is an 18-year NBA vet and has seen about everything a veteran can see, but even he sounded impressed with how well the Knicks have adapted to adversity and are able to take any hit in stride.

"One way to look at the injuries is that everyone gets a chance to play. We're a deep team, but we lost another one tonight, which makes us small. But in the end we play as a team," said Kidd, adding that it's also a blessing to have someone like Anthony on his side. "It also helps when Melo carries us. He was cooking tonight, the hottest thing out there."

The Wizards came into the game stout on the defensive end, allowing just 91.2 points in their previous five games, but the Knicks hit them with a barrage of 3-pointers (9-for-12) to take the early lead. New York finished with a franchise-tying 20 made 3-pointers on 36 attempts.

Anthony notched eight points, including two 3-pointers, as the Knicks took a 36-23 lead after one quarter. Shumpert had a rare productive opening quarter, contributing six points on two 3-pointers.

Wall scored 12 first-quarter points but they still weren't enough to help keep the Wizards within striking distance, as they fell behind early and remained down at the half, 58-43.

The Knicks' shooting had a lot to do with that early deficit, as they shot 12-of-21 from behind the arc in the first half and even had more 3-pointers than 2-pointers in the first half (21-of-39 overall). Eight Knicks' players dropped at least two 3-pointers in the game. The nine 3-pointers in the opening quarter tied a season-high for the squad, while the dozen treys in the first half also tied a season high for most in a half.

Woodson acknowledged that the amount of 3-pointers may turn off some critics who see this style of mainly winning via the outside as unconventional, but he noted that the shots are basically coming within the framework of his ball-swing offense.

"We're one of the top shooting teams in the league, and that's pretty much what we do. But they're not bad shots," Woodson said. "We have guys that can make them, because if we didn't, trust me, they wouldn't be shooting them. We've shot it with a high percentage this year so when you got them (open looks), you have to take them."

NOTES: The Knicks rested All-Star center Tyson Chandler, as soreness from his bulging neck disk flared up again during Tuesday's shootaround. Replacing Chandler in the lineup was ailing big man Kenyon Martin, who missed the previous two games with a sore knee. The fiery 6-foot-9 power forward stepped into the pivot, but he didn't have much of an immediate impact during his first action in over a week. Martin left the game for good midway through the final quarter with a rolled left ankle. X-rays were negative. ... Anthony is the NBA's top scorer and owner of its most popular jersey. Anthony passed MVP LeBron James for the top sales spot Tuesday, the league announced. He's the first Knicks player to lead since the list was released in 2001-02. The list is based on sales at the NBA Store in New York and NBAStore.com since last November. Thunder star Kevin Durant is third, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose. ... Even the Garden faithful were getting in on the shooting festivities, as a female fan won $10,000 by knocking down a free-throw during a break in action. ... Knicks' head coach Mike Woodson is very proud with the way this team has battled adversity and still managed to obtain some of their goals. He added there's still more to accomplish, though, even with the mounting injuries: "The second seed is still out there and it's something that is right there for us to taking. We just have to figure out how to take it, especially as we're banged up with the injured right now. But the guys who are dressed are competing."
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