Knicks notch huge win in OKC

Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points in the Knicks' road win over the Thunder on Sunday afternoon. Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports

Sure, it was just one regular-season game.

But it’s hard to overstate the importance of the Knicks' win over Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon.

In fact, you can make an argument that it was one of the franchise's biggest regular-season wins of the past 20 years.

Here’s why: The victory moved the Knicks one step closer to their first Atlantic Division title since 1994.

With one more win or a Nets loss, they'll clinch the division crown and guarantee home-court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. That's something they haven’t had in Carmelo Anthony's first two postseason runs in New York.

The win also gave the Knicks a 2½-game lead on Indiana in the race for second place in the Eastern Conference. A second-place finish in conference gives the Knicks a home-court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

And let’s not forget that Sunday's win was the Knicks’ 12th straight and 50th of the season. Their current streak is the third-longest in franchise history; this is the first time they've reached 50 wins since 1999-2000.

“Everybody knows New York basketball has been down for a long time and we’re back where we’re supposed to be at,” Anthony said in a postgame interview with ESPN's Heather Cox.

Anyone who watched Sunday's win would probably draw a similar conclusion.

The Knicks, after all, beat an Oklahoma City team that was nearly unstoppable at home. Kevin Durant's Thunder had won 33 of 38 in their home arena prior to Sunday’s matinee.

New York led by 12 late in the third and nearly coughed up that advantage thanks to some sloppy play. But Anthony came up with a few big putbacks in the closing minutes (he had nine offensive rebounds) and J.R. Smith came up with two big perimeter shots in the final 90 seconds to seal the victory.

“It was a big win for us, a big team win for us … we came out here and did what we had to do,” Anthony said.

All of the regular-season accolades are nice, of course, but let's not lose perspective: This Knicks team will ultimately be judged by what it does in the postseason. The Knicks have just one playoff win in the last 12 years and last won a series in 2000.

But before they turn their focus to the postseason, the Knicks will have to take care of their final six regular-season games, starting Tuesday against Washington.

Anthony likes where the Knicks are entering the final stretch.

"(We’re) doing the little things, everyone’s playing their part and (we’re) winning basketball games,” he said.

They sure are. Sunday was another win for the Knicks in a season full of them. But it felt like a little more than that.

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