McGrady scores 26 points in Knicks debut, but Durant has 36 in Thunder’s 8th straight win

By Brian Mahoney, AP
Saturday, February 20, 2010

Durant, Thunder spoil McGrady’s Knicks debut

NEW YORK — Tracy McGrady’s dazzling debut was just about everything the New York Knicks could have hoped for.

It just wasn’t enough to stop Kevin Durant and the surging Oklahoma City Thunder.

Durant scored 36 points and made the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds left in overtime, and the Thunder beat New York 121-118 Saturday night for their eighth straight victory.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of energy in the building with Tracy McGrady coming in,” Durant said. “He played phenomenal. He’s back. He played well, but I’ll take the win.”

McGrady scored 26 points in his first game since the Knicks acquired him Thursday at the trade deadline. But he was on the bench for almost all of overtime, perhaps exhausted after playing 32 minutes in his first action since December.

“He kind of ran out gas towards the end,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Not having played all year, a couple of years almost, 26 points, kind of not bad.”

Durant also hit the tying 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in regulation of his 27th consecutive game with at least 25 points, the longest streak since Allen Iverson also did it in 27 in a row from Jan. 12-March 9, 2001. The last longer streak was by Michael Jordan in 40 straight in the 1986-87 season.

Russell Westbrook finished with 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in the longest winning streak for the Thunder franchise since a nine-game run early in the 2004-05 season. Jeff Green had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

“Everybody lives for nights like this,” Westbrook said. “Basketball players live for overtime game, big shots, things like that.”

David Lee had 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who blew a six-point lead late in regulation and lost their sixth straight. Eddie House, also acquired at the trade deadline, scored a season-high 24 points.

McGrady had his first 25-point game since Jan. 9, 2009, when he had 26 for Houston at Oklahoma City, about a month before season-ending microfracture surgery. He hoped to play 25-30 minutes and said he surpassed his own expectations.

“I didn’t expect to play the way I did,” McGrady said. “I expected to move the way I was out there, but as far as being efficient offensively, playing that many minutes, no.”

His chance for a winning return to action in just his seventh game this season was wrecked by Durant, the sensational swingman who was often compared to McGrady when he came into the NBA three years ago.

McGrady was sitting and the Knicks trailed by five with about 8 minutes remaining when a loud “We want T-Mac!” chant broke out. He returned about 1½ minutes later and helped the Knicks build a six-point lead, but he missed two costly free throws with 1:05 left.

A 3-pointer by Green and a layup by Westbrook cut it to 103-102 with 26 seconds to play. House made two free throws, but Durant buried a 3 to knot it at 105. Danilo Gallinari was short on a potential winning 3 to force overtime.

New York had its final lead of the extra period after House’s jumper with 30 seconds left before Durant’s jumper made it 119-118. Wilson Chandler was short on a drive, Durant sank two free throws, and House and Gallinari missed 3-pointers that could have forced another OT.

The Knicks acquired McGrady on Thursday in a three-team deal with Houston and Sacramento. House came in a trade that sent popular backup Nate Robinson to Boston.

Though the primary benefit of the three-team trade was salary cap positioning for the summer, the Knicks are anxious to see what McGrady has left in the final 29 games and if he’s an option for next season — especially if he was serious Friday when he said he would be willing to take a significant pay cut from this season’s $22.5 million salary if the Knicks can sign a couple of marquee free agents from a class that could be led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

There was a buzz at Madison Square Garden that’s largely been missing after the All-Star break in recent years. Wearing No. 3 — last seen in New York on Stephon Marbury — McGrady was loudly cheered as the last player introduced during starting lineups, and the crowd roared again when he touched the ball on New York’s first possession.

McGrady motioned to D’Antoni that he was ready for a sub about midway through the first quarter, then returned late in the period for a strong finish. He banked in jumper — perhaps mistakenly, judging by the sheepish look on his face — then grabbed the rebound on the next defensive end and threw a long bounce pass in transition to a streaking Al Harrington for a layup and a nine-point lead.

McGrady scored 10 points in the period, matching his season high, and the Knicks led 31-25. He made a 3-pointer and long jumper on the Knicks’ final two possessions of the first half for a 57-52 lead.

James Harden’s free throws with 7.3 seconds left gave Oklahoma City an 82-80 edge heading to the fourth period.

NOTES: The Thunder have won the last three meetings. … The Knicks will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 1969-70 NBA championship team Monday night against Milwaukee.

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