NEW YORK — The New York Knicks romped to their first Atlantic Division title since 1994, getting 36 points from Carmelo Anthony and beating the Washington Wizards 120-99 on Tuesday night for their 13th straight victory.
Anthony put this one away with 21 points during the Knicks‘ 37-point third quarter that gave them a 95-71 lead. The NBA’s scoring leader added eight rebounds and six assists while becoming the first Knick since newly elected Hall of Famer Bernard King with five straight 35-point games.
Iman Shumpert added 18 points for the Knicks, who negated a height disadvantage by tying a franchise record with 20 3-pointers. J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland each added 17 points.
On their longest winning streak since winning 15 in a row from March 1 to April 2, 1994, the Knicks can tie the franchise record of 18 in a row, set early in their first NBA championship season of 1969-70, by winning their final five games.
The Knicks have won or shared six division titles, but had gone nearly two decades without looking at the rest of the Atlantic from the top.
Division titles aren’t particularly important in the NBA — the Knicks don’t even hang banners that recognize theirs. It guarantees teams a top-four seeding in the playoffs but not necessarily home-court advantage in a series, which is determined by won-loss record, and Boston coach Doc Rivers said he couldn’t even remember talking to the Celtics about winning the division while they were taking the last five Atlantic titles.
But Knicks coach Mike Woodson has been talking about it as a goal since replacing Mike D’Antoni last March. There was little celebration afterward, with many fans having already left when the public address announcer told the crowd the Knicks had won it after Anthony finished his on-court interview.
The Knicks played without center Tyson Chandler (bulging disk), then lost replacement Kenyon Martin to an apparent ankle injury after he’d missed the previous two games with a sore left knee.
It was a blowout by then, though with so many injuries in the frontcourt they were obviously concerned when Martin when down after grabbing a defensive rebound, pounding the floor in anger. The team said he had a sprained left ankle and that X-rays were negative.
Anthony stayed right on the blistering pace that won him Eastern Conference player of the week honors after averaging 41.8 points while inching ahead of Kevin Durant for the NBA scoring lead last week. He sat out the fourth quarter after going 13 of 21 from the field.
The Knicks made 10 of their first 14 3-point attempts and finished 20 of 36 (55.6 percent).
Chandler, who recently missed 10 games, told Woodson he felt soreness after Sunday’s victory at Oklahoma City. It left the Knicks, already missing veteran big men Rasheed Wallace, Amare Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, undersized against the Wizards‘ front line that includes Nene and Emeka Okafor.
But the Knicks spread the ball around the perimeter and the Wizards couldn’t get close to them. New York was 9 of 12 on 3-pointers in the first quarter, with Copeland hitting one at the buzzer to make it 36-23.