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Thunder silence the Knicks

Kevin Durant (with ball) led the Thunder’s victory charge down the stretch.

Kevin Durant (with ball) led the Thunder’s victory charge down the stretch.

NEW YORK – The Kevin Durant-Carmelo Anthony duel was postponed, though J.R. Smith filled in nicely – for three quarters at Madison Square Garden.

The Oklahoma City Thunder finally silenced the Knicks’ streaky shooter in the fourth, hanging on to beat New York 95-94 last night when Smith missed a turnaround jumper just before the buzzer.

“We’ve been hurt on those game-winners a couple of times this year and we didn’t want that to happen again,” Durant said. “So we just had to lock in and get a stop.”

Durant scored 34 points, including two free throws with 1:38 left that put Oklahoma City in front for good. He also had eight rebounds and six assists. Russell Westbrook struggled over the final three quarters but finished with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, plus provided tough defence on Smith’s last shot in the Thunder’s first trip to New York since December 22, 2010. Kevin Martin had 16 points as

Oklahoma City posted its third straight win, fighting off a spirited effort by a Knicks team missing Anthony. The All-Star forward missed his second straight game with what the Knicks said is a stiff and sore right knee.

“It was a great fight. I mean we put up a heck of a fight out there tonight,” Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire said. “We played great defensively, offensively we were playing well, the ball was moving, so we can be happy with the way we played but still a little upset that we lost down the stretch.”

Smith scored a season-high 36 points but was just 2 of 9 from the field in the final period, 1 of 5 on 3-pointers. He said afterward he probably should’ve tried to drive on the last possession. “My jumper was pretty much good all night except for the fourth quarter and just didn’t go in,” Smith said.

Neither team led by more than two points over the final 10 1/2 minutes. Durant scored 12 in the final period while Westbrook was shut out. Smith missed a three-pointer with 33 seconds left but the Knicks had a final chance after Durant was off on a jumper with about 9 seconds to go. Smith got the ball in about the same spot where he hit a winning jumper against Phoenix earlier this season, but his shot was long.

In the other game played last night Denver Nuggets coasted past Los Angeles Clippers 107-92 for their seventh straight win.

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