|2010/2011 NBA Regular Season|
|Madison Square Garden
|February 9th, 2011, 4:30 PM|
|FSN Prime Ticket, NBA-TV, KFWB 980 AM
The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
The last time the Clippers played the Knicks, they were on an eight game losing streak and had the worst record in the NBA at 1-12. So I guess the current four game losing streak isn't so bad after all. Still, the last two games have been really brutal. They've shot under 40% from the field in each of them, and missed opportunities to beat teams that were not playing well. The question is whether they can bounce back from those terrible performances, or if they're just overwhelmed right now. In the first meeting with New York, Blake Griffin had his break out game, scoring 44 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, dishing 7 assists and posting more highlights in a single game than last most NBA players get in a career. Unfortunately, with Eric Gordon missing from the lineup, opponents have figured out that they can load their entire defenses around Griffin and the Clippers aren't really capable of doing much to stop them. As a result, Griffin is shooting just 40% in the first three games of the Odyssey. Baron Davis is doing his part to get some wins on this trip - he tried to carry the team to a win in Atlanta, and then again last night in Orlando, scoring season highs in each game. But he's just not getting a lot of help. The other three starters, , and DeAndre Jordan, have been essentially absent on the trip so far. In fact, other than Davis and Ike Diogu and Griffin (who's doing his best to produce while facing massive defensive pressuure), the rest of the Clippers team has been abysmal since the trip began. It goes without saying that they need to get more than three players playing well to win on the road. After the Knicks, the trip gets a little easier with four straight games against teams with losing records. But if they go into that stretch on a five game losing streak, there's no telling how far they might sink.
An eight game winning streak back in December got the Knicks up seven games over .500 at 16-9, and it seemed for a time that they were going to be a factor in the Eastern Conference and Amare Stoudemire's name was getting mentioned as a legitimate MVP candidate. But they've lost 10 of their last 15, which frankly seems more like the Knicks we were expecting. Yes, they're better with Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. But they've still got a ways to go it seems. They're scoring 106.5 points per game (second most in the league); but they also give up 106 points per game (third most in the league). That's mostly due to the pace at which they play (second fastest in the league), but they are also a much better offensive team than they are a defensive team. They also take a lot of threes, and the long ball is a huge part of their attack.
- Back to back, five in seven. As if an eleven game road trip wasn't bad enough in and of itself, the Clippers have several sets of back to backs on the Odyssey, starting with tonight in New York. The Orlando game also kicked off a string of five games in seven nights. Add some significant travel into the mix (from Florida to the Northeast to the Midwest), and you're talking about a pretty nasty stretch of games.
- Griffin and Stoudemire. It's inevitable that people will compare Blake Griffin to other players. One that we've heard a lot is Karl Malone, but as I've said before, that one doesn't work for me at all. I prefer the comparison to Shawn Kemp at least athletically, but the one I've used most often is Amare Stoudemire. I like to think of Griffin as Amare with a work ethic. They both have unlikely athleticism for their size and get their points mostly by being quicker than the bigs playing opposite them. It's worth noting that Stoudemire had no jump shot to speak of when he first got to the NBA, but has developed into a reliable shooter from 18 feet and in. If Griffin can do the same, he could become a truly unstoppable scorer.
- Mozgov. Knicks rookie Timofey Mozgov has become a household name, but not in a way he would have liked. His name is both a verb ("Blake Griffin just mozgoved that guy") and a noun ("Blake Griffin was going for another mozgov"). With Ronny Turiaf, hurting, Mozgov will actually start this game. Good for him. You have to get right back on the horse when you get thrown. Mozgov had a career high 23 points and 14 rebounds against the Pistons 10 days ago, but he's been a relatively minor factor in the three games since then.
- Three point discrepancy. The Knicks have six players who have made at least 40 three pointers this season; the Clippers only have two, and one of those is Eric Gordon, who is currently hurt. With Rasual Butler buried so deep on the bench that he can't get in the game even with Gordon out, and Al-Farouq Aminu in a three point shooting slump that has seen him make just 6 of 39 threes in 2011, Ryan Gomes is currently the Clippers best three point shooter, and that's a pretty sad commentary. Baron has been shooting it better in 2011 (30 for his last 80) and Randy Foye is capable of making some, but essentially the Clippers are without a viable deep threat right now, and it's really killing them.
- Can Griffin Get Going? Blake has yet to have a really good game on the road trip, but who better than Mozgov and the Knicks to wake him up? If Turiaf doesn't play, Blake should be able to beat pretty much anyone the Knicks throw at him one on one. Of course, that's the problem - they're not going to go at him one on one, they're going to double team him relentlessly and make someone else try to beat them.
- Wilson Chandler. Chandler has been hurting recently, with a bad ankle keeping him out of three recent Knicks games. There is some speculation that he might need off season surgery for the third straight summer. Some reports have Chandler as part of a deal for Carmelo Anthony, but there's speculation also that his injury issues may keep a deal from getting done.
- Speaking of Carmelo. Who knows what's going on with him anyway? With the trade deadline fast approaching, the Knicks are still the most likely destination, despite other rumors link him to the Lakers. Carmelo wants to be in New York, and that's like where he'll end up if he becomes a free agent. But he'd like to get the deal done now so that he can sign an extension before the new (presumably less player friendly) CBA is put in place, and the Nuggets would like to get the deal done now so they can get SOMETHING in return for him.
- Landry Fields. Fifty games into the NBA season, only two rookies have started every game this season for their team: Blake Griffin of the Clippers, and Landry Fields of the Knicks. It's a remarkable achievement for a second round pick.
- Cleveland. Here's hoping that the Cavs beat the Pistons as the Clippers are playing New York tonight. With a 25 game losing streak already in the NBA record books, no one wants to be the team that Cleveland finally beats to end the streak. The Clippers go to Cleveland next for a game on Friday, and if Cleveland is on a 26 game losing streak while the Clippers are 0-4 to start their trip, the Cavs will certainly be pushing hard to beat the Clippers and finally get their ninth win. If they beat the Pistons tonight, it takes that scenario off the table. (Not that the Clippers want to lose to Cleveland even then, but you get the idea.)
- Superstar for one game: Danilo Gallinari. Gallo killed the Clippers in the fourth quarter of the last game, hitting threes and getting to the line.
Too many feathers can sink a boat, and too many knick-knacks can break an axle.
- Get the Knicks perspective at Posting and Toasting.