Carmelo Anthony was dressed in a dark suit on the Knicks’ bench watching Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook running up and down the court slamming and scoring against his team.
The Knicks were doing fine without their best player and even led by 11 in the fourth quarter, but they failed to finish off the Thunder. Too much Durant, not enough Kristaps Porzingis and Arron Afflalo led to a 128-122 overtime loss Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
“Our guys competed from start to finish,” Derek Fisher said. “It wasn’t a perfect game, but I thought the effort was perfect.”
Durant, who called playing at the Garden a “blessing,” fueling speculation he will consider the Knicks when he’s a free agent this summer, had a scintillating performance.
The former MVP had 44 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Durant hit the shot that forced overtime and made two free throws with 15.4 seconds to go to ice the game. Durant was 12-for-26 from the field and 16-for-18 from the foul line. Westbrook had 30 points and 10 assists.
With Anthony out because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee, the Knicks looked to Afflalo to carry them. But he was just 6-for-21 from the field and scored 17 points. He had a shot to win it in regulation, but his baseline jumper rimmed in and out.
“Arron is a guy who closed for us before,” Fisher said. “He’s comfortable and confident in that situation. He had some plays he couldn’t quite finish but he had some good looks.”
Porzingis, who Durant called “a unicorn” because of his ability to shoot three-pointers and block shots on defense, had 15 points and just three after the third quarter.
The Knicks (22-25) lost their third straight and dropped to 0-5 without Anthony.
Langston Galloway hit some huge three-pointers in the fourth quarter and overtime and led the Knicks (22-25) with 21 points off the bench. Derrick Williams had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Lance Thomas started for Anthony and had 16 points before fouling out after playing nearly 41 minutes.
At the Thunder’s morning shootaround, Durant had many nice things to say about New York, his former teammate Fisher, Anthony, the Knicks and the Garden.
The Knicks have money to spend this summer and at the very least are expected to get an audience with Durant after he hits the free-agent market July 1. But Tuesday night, Durant ripped their hearts out.
The Knicks were up 113-109 with less than a minute remaining in regulation, but they couldn’t close out the Thunder. Durant tied the game at 113 with a jumper from the right elbow with 16.2 seconds left.
The Thunder scored first in overtime on a Westbrook layup. After Porzingis made one free throw, Durant hit a jumper over the Knicks’ big man to make it 117-114. The Thunder took a 120-116 lead on a Serge Ibaka putback with 2:41 to go.
Galloway drained a three-pointer to bring the Knicks within 120-119 with 1:43 left. Durant misfired on a three, but Afflalo’s turnaround bank shot with a chance to give the Knicks the lead was long. Westbrook then rattled in a 12-foot pull-up jumper to give the Thunder a 122-119 lead with 1:04 remaining.
“We couldn’t get timely stops at the end of regulation,” Fisher said.