Knicks, Without Anthony, Lose To OKC in Squeaker

Published on: 8th March, 2013

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New York – If nothing else, the Knicks continued to prove tonight they can play at the highest level, against the elite of the NBA without their big scorer and resident superstar, Carmelo Anthony. Even in losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a thriller of a game, 95-94, they showed themselves and the league what they are capable of doing without the services of the league’s second highest scorer.

The Thunder had come into New York tonight, rested and ready for their first New York City appearance in two years sporting a sterling 44-16 record, good for third best in the league. When they found out before the game that Anthony was going to sit out his second consecutive contest with his sore right knee, they had to feel a bit more confident in their chances of getting out of here with a win.

But, not so fast.

Instead, the Knicks played a style of basketball tonight that has been absent from this team since they acquired Carmelo Anthony. They were scrambling and hustling on defense while on offense, they moved the ball around the court to the open man with an efficiency that has been lacking since their 18-5 start to this season. Their record since then is only two games over .500, at 19-17.

“It was a great fight. I mean we put up a heck of a fight out there tonight,” Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire said. “We played great defensively, offensively we were playing well, the ball was moving, so we can be happy with the way we played but still a little upset that we lost down the stretch.”

J.R. Smith Scored 36 But Missed the Shot at the Buzzer

Taking the place of Anthony tonight as lead scorer for the Knicks was the streaky J.R. Smith, who played to type. He scored a season-high 36 points but was hot as a firecracker in the second quarter when he scored 18-points on 7 of 12 shooting and in the third quarter, when he lit up the Thunder on 5 of 6 (3 of 4 from threes) and 13 more points.

But, as is Smith’s career history, he can be frighteningly inconsistent. As hot as Smith was in the earlier quarters, he was just 2 of 9 from the field in the final period, 1 of 5 on 3-pointers. And, somewhat surprisingly, he opted to take a 22-foot, contested, turnaround jumpshot on the last play of the game when the Knicks were going for the win. The lane appeared to be open to him for a drive to the rim, where he might have gotten fouled if he didn’t hit the shot. He said afterward he probably should’ve tried to drive on the last possession.

“I tried to get to my spot where I wanted to get to,” said Smith. “The turnaround jumper is a tough shot in that situation. I really should have taken a page out of LeBron’s book and just try to go to the basket. But my jumper was pretty much good all night.”

Neither team led by more than two points over the final 10 1/2 minutes. Durant scored 12 in the final period while Westbrook was shut out.

Smith missed a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left but the Knicks had a final chance after Durant was off on a jumper with about 9 seconds to go. Smith got the ball in about the same spot where he hit a winning jumper against Phoenix earlier this season, but his shot was long as the Knicks had their two game-winning streak snapped.

In the meantime, the Knicks showed again they’ve got enough guys to compete without Anthony — but perhaps not enough to beat a top team such as the Thunder.

Raymond Felton and Amare Stoudemire each had 16 points for the Knicks, who were playing their fourth game in five nights against the rested and more athletic Thunder.

The Knicks were only 4 of 18 in the fourth quarter, making just 1-of-9 3-pointers.

“In the fourth quarter, we just tried to come out and play lockdown defense, and I think that’s what we did,” Durant said.

The Thunder won the game but the Knicks took away a lot of positives from this performance, mostly in the confidence-building area.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can step up, a lot of guys that can make plays,” said Felton. “We know we’ve got guys who can fill Carmelo’s role like J.R. did tonight.”

The Knicks also may have discovered a unique defensive asset in Kenyon Martin, who was a physical presence during his 17-minute run.

“He brings a bruiser mentality,” added Felton. “He can guard one through five. At the same time when we get knocked on the floor, you know he’s going to do it to the other team. It’s always good to have a guy like that.”

So, in the loss, the Knicks feel like they’ve gained. But, it’s still a loss.

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