NEW YORK (AP) — It won’t be this easy on Sunday. Not when the Miami Heat come to town for what suddenly shapes up as a possible playoff preview.
The New York Knicks sure look ready.
Baron Davis scored a season-high 18 points on his 33rd birthday, JR Smith had 23, and the Knicks surged into a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference by routing the Washington Wizards 103-65 on Friday night for their ninth straight home victory.
Carmelo Anthony and Steve Novak also had 18 for the Knicks, who could now be looking at a preview of a potential first-round series when they host second-place Miami on Sunday. The Knicks tied Philadelphia after the 76ers lost earlier Friday to New Jersey, and New York holds the tiebreaker for the No. 7 seed.
New York held Washington without a field goal for more than 12 minutes — essentially the length of an entire quarter — in the second half
“We want to protect our home court,” Anthony said. “We want to make this one of the toughest places to come in and play and come in and win, and as of late we’ve been doing that and we want to keep that going.”
Playing only 29 minutes, Anthony was well off his NBA-leading average of 32.4 points through his first five games in April. That included 43 in an overtime victory over Chicago here on Sunday. A week later, it’s the same Sunday national TV spot for the Heat’s first trip to New York of the season.
“It’s another big game for us, another exciting game,” Anthony said. “It’ll be fun, the Garden will be rocking. Everybody will be watching. What better game to play in then Sunday evening against Miami?”
Davis shot 7 of 9 in just 23 minutes for the Knicks, who won for the fifth time in six games and improved to 14-4 under Woodson, narrowly missing their second 40-point victory since he took over on March 14. They beat Portland by 42 that night.
The point guard has battled injuries during most of his first season in New York, but said perhaps being in better spirits on his birthday carried into more relaxed play on the court.
“I have the ultimate confidence in myself and in this team, and my teammates have ultimate confidence in me as well,” Davis said. “It’s just a matter of me just continuing to feel better and play as hard as I possibly can. But I know I can get better and I continue to get better as the season progresses and as we get into the playoffs.”
Jordan Crawford scored 17 points for the Wizards, who were trying to win three straight for the first time in their miserable season. But they shot 28 percent and never led in their ninth consecutive loss to the Knicks.
“It’s embarrassing is what it was,” coach Randy Wittman said. “Our effort tonight was uncharacteristic of what we have been doing. I don’t know. It looked like we were overwhelmed from the jump ball when we walked in the arena. Maybe that happens to young guys.”
Washington had only 47 points after three quarters and was stuck there for a while in the fourth as fans chanted “forty-seven!” John Wall shot 2 of 12 and finished with eight points.
His last basket was an impressive alley-oop dunk on the break that cut it to 62-45 with 7:03 remaining in the third quarter. But the Wizards managed just two free throws from then until the end of the period, then didn’t make a basket in the fourth until Shelvin Mack’s layup with 6:43 to play.
“The thing in this league is you’ve got to bring it every night,” Wizards guard Roger Mason Jr. said. “That team we played against today, they’re fighting for playoff position and we’re fighting for our pride. They came out and just completely humiliated us. Thank God we have a game tomorrow and try to make up for it.”
New York solidified its hold on eighth place with a victory in Milwaukee on Wednesday, but quickly showed it isn’t looking to settle for the lowest seed.
The Knicks led 26-13 after one quarter. They closed the first half with an 18-5 burst to take a 54-33 lead after Washington had closed within eight, and gave everyone plenty of rest before the early start Sunday.
The only bad news in the Knicks’ ninth straight home victory was Iman Shumpert leaving with a sprained right ankle after 23 minutes.
NOTES: The Knicks have won the last eight meetings at Madison Square Garden. Their winning streak against the Wizards is their longest current streak against an opponent. … Woodson said Amare Stoudemire, out with a bulging disk in his back, took contact while playing in a pickup game during Thursday’s off day. He isn’t expected to return until mid to late next week. … Knicks PG Jeremy Lin had the stitches from his left knee surgery removed.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)