Thunder 95, Knicks 94

Dave Buscema, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- J.R. Smith stood in for injured New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony to battle Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder with a season-high 36 points.
But Durant took over down the stretch to lead the Thunder to the win while Smith's bid for a game-winning jumper at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
Durant scored 34 points in the 95-94 victory at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, including his team's last six, as Oklahoma City (45-16) won for the sixth time in its past seven games.
With Anthony out for a second straight game with a sore knee, Smith stepped up to provide the scoring for the Knicks, nailing six 3-pointers along the way. But New York (37-22) ultimately dropped its second straight home game against one of last year's NBA finalists, falling short in tight contests against Oklahoma City and the Miami Heat.
Russell Westbrook had 21 points and Kevin Martin added 16 for the Thunder.
Raymond Felton scored 16 and Amar'e Stoudemire, who shot just 5 of 16 from the field, also had 16 for the Knicks.
Smith's sixth 3-pointer gave the Knicks a 90-89 lead with 4:15 remaining, triggering five back-and-forth lead changes the next few minutes. Durant scored six points for the Thunder in that span, hitting four free throws.
A little more than a minute later, Durant answered with a fade-away jumper to put Oklahoma City up 91-90.
Felton countered with a layup and New York led 92-91 with 2:58 left before Durant again nudged the Thunder ahead, 93-92 with a pair of free throws with just over two minutes left. Stoudemire then countered with two free throws of his own less than half a minute later and New York again led, 94-93. Durant hit two more with 1:38 remaining for the 95-94 lead and Oklahoma City stopped the Knicks the rest of the way, including Smith's missed bid for a game-winning jumper at the buzzer.
Trailing by six entering the final quarter, Durant scored six of the Thunder's first eight points in the fourth, giving them an 84-83 lead on a jumper with 9:41 left.
The game remained tight from there and through final minutes.
The Knicks entered the fourth quarter with an 81-75 lead after finishing the third with a 21-10 stretch.
Smith hit three 3-pointers during that span, including one with one second left in the quarter to up the margin back to six after Oklahoma City closed within three on a three-point play by Durant.
After leading by as much as 11 in the first half, the Thunder entered halftime with a 59-56 lead. Westbrook led Oklahoma City with 19 points before the break while Durant and Kevin Martin added 13 apiece.
Smith had 18 points at halftime for New York, including a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in the second quarter to cut the deficit to three.
NOTES: Knicks coach Mike Woodson said in his pre-game press conference he was not concerned about a long-term issue for Anthony, who hurt his knee in the first half of Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Woodson did say he would like to reduce Anthony's minutes a little when he returns to cut down on some wear and tear. ... With Anthony out, Kurt Thomas again started, with Stoudemire coming off the bench. Stoudemire has been given a minutes limit of 30 per game while recovering from knee surgery, but Woodson said before the game that that limit could eventually increase later in the season. ... Anthony's absence eliminated a battle between the league's top two scorers. Durant, who has won the past three scoring titles, entered the game averaging 28.6 points per game to Anthony's 28.2.

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