Clippers Vs. Knicks - Game Preview - Home Court on the Line

NEW YORK NY - FEBRUARY 09: Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks the ball against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 9 2011 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this Photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Clippers defeated the Knicks 116-108. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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40-25

34-30
Madison Square Garden
April 25th, 2011, 5:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, ESPN, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul?
PG Baron Davis
Randy Foye SG Landry Fields
Caron Butler
SF Carmelo Anthony
Blake Griffin
PF Amare Stoudemire
DeAndre Jordan
C Tyson Chandler

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The teams split two games last season, with each team winning on the road.

The Big Picture:

There's no reason to panic. Yes, the Clippers lost in Atlanta last night. And you know what? They might lose in New York tonight as well against a Knicks team that is playing very well. That would leave the Clippers vulnerable to losing home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs should Memphis beat Orlando on Thursday, which they likely will. But if the Clippers are actually better than the Grizzlies, then they can beat them with or without home court advantage, and if they're not better, they can lose. So let's not invest all of our emotions into this one regular season game. As for the game itself, the most immediate problem (and one that might justify a little panic) is whether Chris Paul will be able to play -- or maybe the better question is whether he SHOULD play. Paul suffered a mild groin sprain last night in Atlanta. With the playoffs starting on Saturday, Paul could take three full days if he skips this game. There's no way that winning this game, even if it does mean home court advantage, is worth having Paul less healthy in the playoffs than he would be with more rest. Paul is competitive and will want to play, but Jasen Powell had better be 100% certain that he won't do any additional damage or even delay proper recovery by playing tonight. The postseason is what matters now -- not this game. The Clippers have won 14 of their last 18 games, and haven't lost back to back games in over a month. It would be a shame to finish the season with two losses. And it would be great to get one last road win and finish with a winning road record for the first time in franchise history. But I repeat, the postseason is what matters now.

The Antagonist:

The Knicks have had a season that defies description. It defies logic for that matter. They've been on multiple long winning streaks, and multiple long losing streaks. They found a superstar sitting on the end of their bench (or playing in the D-League), and then they lost him. They fired the coach they were thrilled to sign a few years ago. They played better when Carmelo Anthony was hurt, and then really settled in when Carmelo was the only star left standing. Under new coach Mike Woodson, they seem to be a defensive power, where the offense consists of isolations for Carmelo, and shooters all over the floor -- and it's working. In their last six games, the Knicks have made 79 three pointers, and Anthony has averaged almost 30 points per game. Carmelo is averaging 31 in the month of April. In addition to Anthony, the Knicks have had Amare Stoudemire back for two games, and the team may be back at close to full strength tonight, as Tyson Chandler plans to return from a recent absence due to a sore knee. It's unclear how motivated the Knicks will be to win this game -- in theory they could still catch Orlando and secure the sixth seed, but that would require the Magic to lose their final two games. Orlando hosts Charlotte tonight, and the Bobcats have lost 21 in a row -- so the sixth seed would seem to be a lost cause. In that case, the Knicks might be better off losing their final two games and hoping for the eighth seed, since they've had more success against 1 seed Chicago this season (1-3 with two close losses) than they have against 2 seed Miami (0-3). The Orlando-Charlotte game starts an hour before the Clippers and Knicks, so if an Orlando win helps the Clippers at all, there will be some indication as to how likely that is by tip off. (But surely Orlando, as bad as they have been, can't possibly lose to the Bobcats.)

The Subplots

  • Tonight's special guest recapper: Citizen johnnyoc21.
  • Key Knicks Metrics:
    Pace: 93.3 (4th of 30 NBA Teams)
    Off Rtg: 104.1 (19th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 101.0 (5th of 30)
  • Key Clippers Metrics:
    Pace: 89.2 (27th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 108.5 (4th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.3 (15th of 30)
  • Long time no see. The Clippers and Knicks have not played each other in over 14 months. They have yet to play this year, and are finally meeting in this the last game of the Clippers regular season.
  • First meeting with Baron. Baron Davis was traded from the Clippers to the Cavaliers in February of 2011. When the Cavs visited L.A. in March, Baron did not play because of back spasms. Baron was waived by the Cavs under the NBA's amnesty program and signed with the Knicks, and now finally, in the final game of the season, the Clippers and Knicks are playing. Baron has continued to have back trouble this season and has missed 36 games, but he's been the starter in New York since Jeremy Lin was hurt. He's been pretty terrible this season -- 6 points and 5 assists on 36% shooting -- but you can be certain that he will be extra motivated against the Clippers tonight.
  • Nuggets reunion. Although Chauncey Billups is back in the L.A., these two teams each feature two long time Nuggets. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith of the Knicks were both long time teammates of Billups and Kenyon Martin of the Nuggets.
  • Defending Melo. The first question is what position will Carmelo be playing. In the absence of Stoudemire and then Chandler, Melo has been playing power forward during New York's recent success. Which raises an interesting question for Mike Woodson -- if Chandler and Stoudemire and Anthony, all making over $10M more than anyone else on the roster, are all healthy, does he start them all and move Carmelo back to small forward, or does he stay with a formula that has been working with Melo at the four? Blake Griffin would struggle to defend Melo, but it might be a nice challenge for him. Kenyon Martin, Melo's teammate for seven years in Denver, would be the best matchup, but it might mean Martin playing the three. Caron Butler is a decent choice to guard him, but Melo would probably have his way with Caron.
  • Griffin. Blake Griffin averaged 32.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in two games against the Knicks last season. He's also coming off his season high of 36 last night. This is a different Knicks team, a better defensive team, but he'll still be matched up against Amare Stoudemire. If Paul is unable to play, Griffin will obviously have to be huge.
  • Supporting cast. The Clippers not named Chris Paul or Blake Griffin combined to score just 32 points in Atlanta last night -- less than either Paul or Griffin. Randy Foye, who has been nothing short of outstanding in April, was scoreless in 20 minutes. Caron Butler, Mo Williams and Nick Young were all non-factors. If Paul can't play tonight, several of those guys are going to have to step up.
  • Foye's big game. Foye had a huge game in New York last year. With the Clippers in the midst of a difficult road trip, Foye scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead the team to victory in Madison Square Garden. So which Foye will show up tonight?
  • Steve Novak. Clipper fans know full well what a great shooter Steve Novak is. He's probably the most one-dimensional player in the league -- 83% of his shot attempts this season have been from beyond the three point arc (only DeShawn Stevenson has taken a higher percentage of threes), but man can he shoot threes. Basically, if Novak is in the game, you have to stay glued to him beyond the arc -- and then abuse him on the other end. Novak is leading the NBA in three point percentage at 47%, and because so many of the shots he takes are threes, his effective field goal percentage is an absurd 67%. But he's only second in the NBA in eFG this season -- behind his teammate, Tyson Chandler.
  • Chandler. Tyson Chandler is a former teammate and close friend of Chris Paul from their days together in New Orleans. DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers should aspire to some day be Tyson Chandler. Jordan can finish lob passes just fine, but he has light years to go to catch up to Chandler on the defensive end.
  • Super friends. After LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had teamed up in Miami, Chris Paul made headlines when he supposedly toasted to a New York big three featuring Stoudemire, Anthony and himself -- while Carmelo was still a Nugget and Paul was still a Hornet. Carmelo made it to New York, but Paul wound up in L.A. with the Clippers. Here's hoping that he stays here.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    knickerbocker

    n.
    Someone who acts and looks dorky, but is incredibly sexy.

    His personality is a little bit too weird for me, but I can't get over his body... he's a complete knickerbocker!
  • Get the Knicks perspective at Posting and Toasting.
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