(The Sports Xchange) - For almost two weeks, Oklahoma City have been preaching relentlessly that they had to get better on defense. Yet, it has not materialized on the court in the form of consistent wins. On Friday, they saw what happens when a team puts defense first.
The New York Knicks came to town sporting that mindset and when they needed to get one stop to win a game, they did as they pulled out 93-90 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“We just wanted to get a stop,” New York coach Derek Fisher said. “Doesn’t really matter how you get into that position. It’s a three-point game. In order to win, you have to get a stop.”
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points on nine of 20 shooting from the field and grabbed five rebounds. Arron Afflalo scored 14 points for New York and Lance Thomas came off to bench to score 12.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 34 points to go along with seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals. Dion Waiters added 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the floor.
The Knicks improved to 7-6 while the Thunder fell to 7-6.
Westbrook downplayed the team being frustrated at the way they have been playing since the injury to Kevin Durant sidelined the All Star for the past five games.
“We just have to find a way to put together some wins,” Westbrook said. “That’s about it.”
After trailing by 16 in the fourth quarter, the Thunder cut the lead to eight on Nick Collison’s putback with 5:35 left. After Anthony knocked in a jumper, Enes Kanter answered with a rebound and putback on the other end.
But just as the Oklahoma City fans were starting to get loud, Afflalo hit a bucket from the corner and the Knicks were back up by 10 with 3:45 on the clock.
Oklahoma City were down 89-85 with 46 seconds left and Westbrook fouled Anthony, who missed both free throws. The Thunder got the ball with 32 seconds remaining and Westbrook got the ball to a wide-open Serge Ibaka, whose three-pointer from the corner rimmed out and Knicks rebounded.
Robin Lopez and Anthony followed with four free throws for the Knicks. However, Westbrook hit a jumper and three-pointer to cut the Thunder’s deficit to three.
“You just never know what to expect when Russ has the ball,” Anthony said. “He is coming down hill full speed. And you don’t know if he is going to keep driving or put up a three.
“You have to keep all eyes on him. You just never know what to expect when it comes to Russ.”
The Knicks turned the ball over and the Thunder had another chance to send the game into overtime, but shots from Westbrook and Waiters were both off the mark.
Oklahoma City dominated on the boards with a 49-36 advantage, but the Knicks held them to 38 percent shooting from the floor.
“I gave our guys a lot of credit as far as hanging in there,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
“The difference in the game was the three-point line. We really weren’t able to make too many of ours. I was pleased with our guys continuing to fight and battle through a difficult offensive night.”
Compiled by Peter Rutherford