OKLAHOMA CITY – With 90 points in his last two games, Carmelo Anthony is a making a hard charge at Kevin Durant, who can become the first player to win four consecutive scoring titles since Michael Jordan won seven in a row 20 years ago.
Entering tonight’s Oklahoma City Thunder game against the San Antonio Spurs (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT), Durant leads the league at 28.3 ppg. The sizzling Anthony has climbed to 28.1.
How does Durant feel about this little development?
“He can have it,” Durant said flatly after OKC’s Thursday morning shootaround.
In the nine games that Anthony has played since missing three in a row and six of eight with a bothersome right knee, he’s been lethal, averaging 31.4 ppg and shooting 48.1 percent overall and 40 percent from 3-point range. To no coincidence, the Knicks are riding a 10-game winning streak.
“I mean the stuff he’s doing right now, every time he touches the ball it looks like it’s going to go in,” Durant said. “He’s having a nice run right now and his confidence is high. I’m sure he’s going to take over. If it happens, cool.”
Anthony’s scoring blitz is even more spectacular over the last five games: 33.6 ppg, 52.5 percent from the floor and 52.4 percent from beyond the arc. He poured in 50 Tuesday against the Heat without LeBron James (fourth in scoring at 26.9 ppg) and Dwyane Wade, and followed up with 40 Wednesday night against Atlanta.
OKC and New York both have eight games left. Thunder coach Scott Brooks has already said he has no plans to rest his starters down the stretch as they battle San Antonio for the West’s No. 1 seed. The Knicks are locked in a struggle for the East’s No. 2 seed with the Indiana Pacers.
“I coached Carmelo for three years (as an assistant coach at Denver), that’s probably not something that he wants,” Brooks said of the scoring title, which would be the first of Anthony’s 10-year career. “He wants the championship just as much as KD does. But it is exciting. It’s always exciting when you get down to the last week of the season — who gets the scoring title, who gets the rebounding title? Those are minor things. Kevin’s worried about the big picture.
“But, it would be cool; definitely would be a great opportunity to be his age and have it four straight years.”
It would be historic.
Durant can win four scoring titles in his first six seasons and before he turns 25 (which he will in September). He’s already the first to capture three consecutive scoring titles since Jordan did it in his return from baseball from 1995-98. Only Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain can claim scoring titles in more than three consecutive seasons. Chamberlain also won it seven times from 1959-66.
“Don’t get me wrong, I never want to take stuff like that for granted, but if it happens, it happens,” Durant said. “I’m just going to play my game. I’m not going to force it too much and think about it too much and try to get it. But if it’s meant to be then it will happen.”
Durant is also shooting for a most enviable double-double of sorts as the first player ever to win the scoring title and join the exclusive 50-40-90 club — 50 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the arc (Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are the others and Bird and Nash are the only ones to do it multiple times).
A down tick in Durant’s scoring and shooting since the All-Star break — 26.1 ppg, 47 percent overall and 35.1 percent on 3s — recently put him in jeopardy of dipping below the first two thresholds. But he’s gained a bit of wiggle room over the last six games while averaging 27.8 ppg on 51.4 percent shooting and 52.9 percent from beyond the arc. Entering tonight’s game, Durant’s percentages line up like this: 50.5, 41 and 90.8.
The long and lanky Durant is the far more efficient scorer compared to Anthony. Durant has played in 13 more games, yet has taken eight fewer total shots than Anthony (1,322 to 1,330) — about four fewer attempts per game — and has made 78 more (668 to 590).
Anthony’s 44.4 percent overall shooting this season is a notch below his career average (45.5 percent), but his 37.8 percent from 3-point range would tie for the second-highest mark of his career.