SPORTS

Carmelo Anthony Scores 39 in "Almost Must Win" Game as Race in the East Tightens

New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (7) puts up a shot as he gets by Orlando Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 28, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York.  Anthony led all scorers with 39 points as the Knicks won 113-106 in overtime (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (7) puts up a shot as he gets by Orlando Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 28, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Anthony led all scorers with 39 points as the Knicks won 113-106 in overtime (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)  (AP2011)

Carmelo Anthony called it an "almost a must win" game and then went out and made sure to put the game into the win column for the New York Knicks against the Orlando Magic on Monday night.   

Anthony scored 39 points, his best effort since coming to New York, and the Knicks pulled out a 113-106 overtime victory to snap a six-game losing streak.

Despite missing a potential game-winner at the end of regulation, there was no panic from Anthony or his Knick teammates. Instead, it was the Orlando Magic who lost their poise in overtime, Dwight Howard fouling out in the extra session and then picked up his NBA-leading 17th technical foul..

"I said that. That's how I felt, that's how we felt as a team, that it was a must win for us," Anthony said. "We, as a team, backed it up tonight."

Amare Stoudemire had 20 points for the Knicks, who won for just the second time in 11 games and inched closer to their first playoff berth since 2004.

The Knicks improved to 8-12 since acquiring Anthony from Denver. Though the questions about the deal have grown louder as the Knicks struggle, the All-Star forward showed why the team wanted him by scoring 33 points after halftime.

"Carmelo helped, he was on fire out there." Stoudemire said. "They had no answer for him, and then we played great defensively, we got after it, chasing down loose balls, really, really showing the effort to want to win and it showed tonight."

The Eastern Conference playoff race continues to tighten with nine games left in the regular season.  The Conference leading Chicago Bulls lost to the Philadelphia Sixer's Monday night in their first home loss since Jan. 18 against Charlotte.

The Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat are each two games behind the Bulls as the Celtics continue to slide  losing 3 of their last 4 and playing .500 ball in their last ten games.

The Heat have won five straight and as they prepare to play 6 of their final 9 games against teams who will not make the playoffs.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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