NEW YORK – The 2013 Atlantic Division Champion tees said it all.
“CAN’T STOP NY KNICKS”
“I’m not even going to wear it,” said Knicks point Ray Felton, treasuring the royal blue t-shirt, with orange lettering, denoting New York’s freshly minted Atlantic Division crown – a first since 1994.
The Knicks, winners of an NBA-best 13 straight games after tonight, routed lowly Washington 120-99 at Madison Square Garden. The victory was also New York’s 51st of the season, the most since 1996-97, when the Knicks won 57 games.
But the focus in the postgame locker room wasn’t so much on No. 51, or even the streak, but rather on securing the team’s first goal during the preseason, and that was to win the division crown. “It means a lot,” said Knicks head coach Mike Woodson. “It means we are headed in the right direction. I can tell you that.
“When you set goals and you accomplish them, it means a lot to your franchise and your fans that support your ballclub,” Woodson added. “I tip my hat to the guys in the locker room.”
NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony spurred the Knicks once again. He scored 21 points during the third quarter and finished with 37 for the game. He added eight rebounds, six assists and become the first place in franchise history since Bernard King to register five straight 35-point games.
“The way we are as a team and the way we kept our composure throughout the process, we knew we were going to get healthy and get back to playing winning basketball,” said Anthony of the win streak and how it came together. “We did that.”
With Anthony being rested for the fourth, several reserves played major minutes and stepped up over the final period in closing out another dominating victory. Reserves J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland shined late, netting 17 points apiece. Iman Shumpert added 18.
“We feel like this is our year,” Shumpert said.
“Just one more step,” Knicks guard Jason Kidd noted.
The Knicks made 10 of their first 14 3-pointers and finished 20 of 36, tying a franchise record. New York was 9 of 12 on 3s in the first, with Copeland hitting one at the buzzer.
“They shot the ball extremely well,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “They hit 20 3s, they spread the floor and they have guys that can take you off the dribble. When they’re shooting like that, they’re a tough team to beat.”
The Knicks slowed down, and Washington was within seven late in the second quarter.
However, the Knicks scored seven points in the final 50.3 seconds, with Felton stealing the ball from John Wall and laying it in with 1.3 seconds left.
In defeat, Wall scored 33 points for the Wizards.
“I think they shot 60 percent from the three-point line and it’s tough to beat a team that’s on a streak like they are right now,” Wall said.
The Knicks can tie the franchise record of 18 wins in a row, which was set early in their first NBA championship season of 1969-70, by winning their final five games.
New York will visit Chicago Thursday. The Bulls have won all three meetings between the two this season.
NOTES: The Knicks played without center Tyson Chandler (bulging disk), then lost replacement Kenyon Martin to an apparent ankle injury in the fourth … Anthony was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 41.8 points … The NBA announced Tuesday that Anthony tops its jersey sales list, based on sales at the NBA Store in New York and on nbastore.com since November.