New York, NY – Oklahoma City has brought the defensive intensity as of late.
As a result, the Thunder have won six of their last seven games.
Kevin Durant's go-ahead free throws late in the fourth quarter lifted Oklahoma City to a 95-94 win over the Carmelo Anthony-less New York Knicks.
Durant, who had 34 points, eight rebounds and six assists, sunk two free throws with 1:38 remaining for the go-ahead points, and the Thunder clamped down defensively from there.
Raymond Felton turned the ball over on the Knicks' ensuing possession, J.R. Smith followed by missing a 3-pointer, and Smith also misfired on a tough, contested fadeaway jumper by Russell Westbrook from the left wing at the horn.
"I tried to get to my spot where I really wanted to get to," Smith said of the final shot. "My jumper was pretty much good all night except for the fourth quarter and it just didn't go in."
New York netted just 13 points in the final frame.
The Thunder had given up 113.7 points per contest during a three-game skid prior to their 6-1 stretch. OKC entered Thursday allowing 95.2 points per tilt on 40.8 percent shooting against its previous six opponents.
Westbrook added 21 points, six boards and five assists, while Kevin Martin netted 16 points off the bench in the victory.
Anthony's knee injury cost him his second straight game. The injury canceled out a battle between the top two scorers in the NBA. Durant leads the NBA, while Anthony sits second.
"Eventually Carmelo will be back, they're going to be as good as any team in the East," OKC head coach Scott Brooks said.
Smith took over the scoring duties in Anthony's absence and deposited 36 points for New York, which shot 40.7 percent from the floor. Amar'e Stoudemire and Felton chipped in 16 points apiece in defeat.
OKC jumped out to a 35-26 lead after a quarter of play before taking a 59-56 edge into the break.
Smith had 13 points in the third as the Knicks headed into the fourth with an 81-75 cushion, but Durant had six points during a quick 9-2 spurt to begin the final stanza to give the Thunder an 84-83 edge with 9:42 left.
It remained a one-possession contest throughout the rest of the game.
Smith's career-high is 45 points set in 2009 while with the Denver Nuggets ... Durant also had seven turnovers ... OKC was 25-of-29 from the foul line, while New York finished a perfect 14-of-14 from the stripe.