Kevin Durant scored 34 points to lead Oklahoma City past red-hot J.R. Smith and the Knicks, 95-94 Thursday night in New York City.
Smith scored 36 as he and Durant combined for 70 points, but Durant's late free throws gave the Thunder its sixth win in seven games.
The Knicks took the lead right out of the gate, going up 13-7 on Raymond Felton's free throw at the 8:23 mark, but that's when the Thunder struck hard. OKC exploded on a 16-0 run to take a 23-13 lead and used that burst to hold a 35-26 lead after one.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma City, that's when Smith got hot—and stayed hot. Smith scored 18 points in the second quarter to lead New York's comeback, hitting one shot after another as the Madison Square Garden crowd grew louder and louder. New York outscored the Thunder 30-24 in the period and Oklahoma City's lead was just three, 59-56, at the break.
Smith and the Knicks stayed hot in the third quarter, outscoring OKC 25-16 and grabbing an 81-75 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Smith scored 13 more in the third and had 31 points on the night, with a quarter left to go.
A Reggie Jackson 3-pointer followed a Kevin Durant layup as the Thunder grabbed five quick points to start the fourth, cutting the Knicks' lead to 81-80. From that point, it was back and forth until the final buzzer.
Durant hit two free throws with 1:38 remaining to put OKC up 95-94, and little did anyone know those would be the final points of the game. After the two teams exchanged missed opportunities, the Knicks got the ball with seven second left and a chance to win it. This time though, Smith's turnaround jumper was off, and the Thunder escaped with the 95-94 win.
Durant led OKC (45-16) with 34 points, eight rebounds and six assists, including scoring the Thunder's final six points. Russell Westbrook was hot in the first half, leading the Thunder with 19 points at the break, but scoring just two in the second half after turning his ankle. Kevin Martin finished with 16 points off the Thunder bench, nailing 3-5 from 3-point range.
Smith led the Knicks (37-22) with 36 points off the bench, while Amar'e Stoudemire also added 16 for New York's second unit. Felton scored 16 to lead the Knicks' starters. New York played without star forward Carmelo Anthony, who missed the game a knee issue.
The second half was a much different story than the first, with the pace of game slowing and the offensive efficiency dropping dramatically. After combining for 115 first-half points, the two teams struggled to score just 74 combined points in the final two quarters. The Thunder saw its 56-percent first-half shooting fall to just 44 percent for the game, while shooting just 3-11 from 3-point range in the second half.
The Thunder is back in action Friday night against the lowly Bobcats in Charlotte. OKC beat Charlotte 104-69 earlier this season; kick-starting the Bobcats' 18-game losing streak.