The last two scoring champions go at it on national television to kick off Sunday's NBA action as Carmelo Anthony brings the struggling Knicks to visit Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It will be the final matchup of the season between Melo and Durant unless Anthony is traded before the Feb. 20 deadline. OKC opened as a 10-point favorite on NBA odds with a total of 200.5.
Fittingly, Anthony and Durant were the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month for January. Anthony led the East in scoring at 28.7 ppg -- including a career-high and franchise-record 62 in one game -- and Durant led the NBA at 35.9 ppg, including that crazy 12-game streak of at least 30. How great would it be to see both put up 50 Sunday? If wondering, Durant's career high is 54 points, which he had Jan. 17 at home against Golden State.
You get the feeling Durant doesn't care all that much about winning the NBA scoring title, but that it is an annual goal of Anthony's. The former doesn't want the spotlight while the latter absolutely craves it. Melo ended Durant's three-year run as the scoring king last season by averaging 28.7 ppg to Durant's 28.1. There's going to be no drama this year as Durant is averaging a career-high 31.0 per game, with Melo second at 27.4. Durant is going to win his first NBA MVP Award as well barring an injury.
The last time Anthony and Durant faced off was April 7, 2013, in Oklahoma City. The Knicks pulled off a 125-120 upset behind Melo's 36 points (on a whopping 29 shots) and 12 rebounds. Durant finished with 29 on 12 fewer shots. Russell Westbrook, who remains out injured, fired it up 27 times and scored 37.
Should He Stay Or Should He Go?
There is renewed talk that Knicks coach Mike Woodson is back out on the proverbial plank after reports team owner James Dolan met with Carmelo to apparently let his star decide whether the guy should go. This happened after Wednesday's 94-90 home loss to Portland, New York's third straight defeat. It apparently worked as the Knicks played their best game in weeks on Friday in smashing Denver 117-90. Melo had 31 in three quarters against his old club. New York (21-29 ATS, 26-24 O/U at sportsbooks) shot 56.5 percent from the field. What might save Woodson's job is that Anthony has publicly backed the coach. In reality, Woodson is a goner after the season unless the Knicks make some shocking playoff run. To do that, they need to get at worst the sixth seed because the No. 7 or No. 8 means a quick exit against either Indiana or Miami.
You don't see too many buzzer-beating dunks in the NBA but it happened to Oklahoma City on Friday night as it lost 103-102 in Orlando -- hello, trap game for sports bettors! The Thunder's Kevin Durant missed a jumper with OKC up 102-101 with 2.9 seconds left and didn't get back on defense after missing it. With all due respect to the Magic, that was at tough one for OKC (30-22 ATS, 26-26 O/U at sportsbooks) to get motivated for. It was a weird one-game trip to central Florida after the Thunder had stomped Memphis and Minnesota at home and then welcomes New York for this game.
A Christmas Day showdown between the NBA's top two scorers was a dud with the Thunder blowing out the Knicks 123-94 at Madison Square Garden as 10.5-point favorites for sports bettors. It was the largest margin of victory ever for a visiting team on the holiday. That line wouldn't have been so large, but Anthony sprained his ankle in the Knicks' previous game and would sit out against Oklahoma City (and the next two games). Anthony would thus become the last NBA player to lead his team in points (outright or tied) in every game to that point in the season.
Durant was an efficient 10-for-16 from the field for 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Westbrook had a triple-double of 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists before the third quarter was finished. That was the last game Westbrook played -- he is targeting a Feb. 20 game against the Heat as a return date. Amare Stoudemire had one of his best games of the season for the Knicks with 22 points. New York also played without starting point guard Raymond Felton as well as forward Metta World Peace.
Free NBA Pick: Knicks +10 on NBA odds and over 200.5. New York has covered five of its past seven in this series and is 8-2 in its past 10 after an ATS win. This game matters in a big way to Melo, so take his over points prop as well.