OKLAHOMA CITY – Driving to the basket in crunch time, Raymond Felton slipped to the floor and lost the basketball in the process. All he could do was lunge back at it and bat it toward J.R. Smith as the shot clock ticked closer to zero.
For the second straight possession, Smith beat the buzzer – this time with a three-pointer – and the Knicks closed out a 125-120 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
He makes plays like that. He makes tough shots. Sometimes I think he likes to take the tougher shot than the easier shot. They still go in, said teammate Carmelo Anthony, who had 36 points and 12 rebounds while moving ahead of Kevin Durant to become the NBA’s top scorer.
Smith finished with 22 points, including the two biggest shots of the game. He connected on a 23-foot jumper from the right wing as the 24-second clock expired to put New York up 117-113 with 1:30 to play, then swished a three-pointer with 56.8 seconds left that all but sealed New York’s 50th win of the season.
It was just a freak accident, a great play, Felton said. I slipped, knocked the ball to him and he did the rest. He knocked down the big shot.
The victory was the Knicks’ 12th in a row and put them at 50 wins for the first time in 13 years. They also moved 2 1/2 games ahead of Indiana for second place in the Eastern Conference and moved onto the doorstep of clinching the Atlantic Division title.
Russell Westbrook had 37 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for Oklahoma City, which fell a game behind San Antonio for first place in the West with five games left.
CLIPPERS 109, LAKERS 95: In Los Angeles, Blake Griffin had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and the playoff-bound Clippers clinched their first Pacific Division title in franchise history against a team that has long overshadowed them.
CAVALIERS 91, MAGIC 85: In Cleveland, Alonzo Gee scored 19 points and Cleveland rallied in the fourth quarter for the win.
GRIZZLIES 89, KINGS 87: In Sacramento, Calif., Mike Conley scored 25 points, making the go-ahead basket with 30 seconds left and leading the Memphis to its fifth win in six games.
PISTONS 99, BULLS 85: in Auburn Hills, Mich., Brandon Knight scored 20 points to help Detroit snap an 18-game losing streak against Chicago.
Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the postseason-bound Bulls, who are fighting to secure the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
CELTICS 107, WIZARDS 96: In Boston, Brandon Bass scored 20 points and Boston, helped by the return of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, won for just the fourth time in 12 games. Garnett had 12 points and six rebounds after missing eight games with an inflamed left ankle. Pierce finished with 15 points in 30 minutes.
JAZZ 97, WARRIORS 90: In Oakland, Calif., Mo Williams scored 25 points, Al Jefferson added 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Utah regained the Western Conference’s final playoff position.