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Clippers-Knicks preview: Holding on to home court

The Clippers once again find themselves back in third place in the West after dropping down to fourth following Wednesday's loss. They need to win to stay there, which shouldn't be a problem against the depleted Knicks.

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
2012/2013 NBA Regular Season

March 17th, 2013, 12:30 AM
ABC, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330
Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Raymond Felton
Chauncey Billups SG Iman Shumpert
Caron Butler SF Chris Copeland
Blake Griffin PF Kenyon Martin
DeAndre Jordan C Kurt Thomas
Advanced Stats through games of March 16
91.5 (16th of 30) Pace 90.4 (25th of 30)
110.1 (5th of 30) ORtg 109.5 (6th of 30)
103.0 (8th of 30) DRtg 106.3 (18th of 30)
Caron Butler (elbow) probable
Carmelo Anthony (knee) questionable
Eric Bledsoe (calf) doubtful
Tyson Chandler (knee) questionable

Amare Stoudemire (knee surgery) out

Rasheed Wallace (foot) out

The Back Story:

-- February 10 in New York | Clippers 102, Knicks 88 | Recap | Box Score

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are 11-5 in their last 16 games, which is a very good record over that time -- as good as Oklahoma City as it happens. They've also played a very difficult schedule in that span, facing the top seven teams in the league aside from themselves. So a good record against a high level of competition is a good thing, right? Well, except that their five losses have come against the top four teams in the Western Conference and the Heat, so that the perception at this point is that they can't compete with the best teams. Against everyone else the Clippers have been great -- 10 of their last 11 wins have come by double digits, including a 14 point win over the Knicks five weeks ago. They face New York again today, with the Knicks reeling between a series of injuries and some generally uninspired play. Frankly, if the Clippers can keep doing what they've been doing -- winning against all be the elite teams -- that will be fine. They could lose games in San Antonio and in Memphis and still go 14-2 in their remaining games. But whether this ineffectiveness against the top teams is a fatal flaw or not, the Clippers need to get back on the right track with a win over the Knicks today.

The Antagonist:

The Knicks started the season 18-5 but have gone 20-20 since. And frankly, they'd probably be happy to go .500 over the remainder of the regular season the way things have been going lately. The Knicks have lost three straight and four of five, and if they don't get some of their bigs back soon they could lose a lot more. Amare Stoudemire is probably out for at least the rest of the regular season to undergo knee surgery, and both Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony are currently nursing knee injuries that have caused them to miss recent games and will apparently keep them out of today's game as well. During their red hot start to the season, the Knicks were running the offense through Carmelo, spreading the floor with three point shooters around him, and playing stingy defense with Chandler anchoring the middle. But with Melo and Chandley out, they'll just be a collection of gunners and not much else. We may never know if the Knicks could have maintained their original pace had injuries and other issues not arisen -- my guess is they could not have, as their three point shooting seemed unsustainable. At this point, the Knicks will be happy to hold on to home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. They have a one game lead over Brooklyn for third in the East, with Chicago just three games back.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Knicks started the season playing great defense, but they're down to 18th in defensive efficiency at this point.
  • Keeping home court. The Knicks and Clippers find themselves in similar, though far from identical, playoff situations. Both teams were more successful during the first half of the season than they have been since. Both have seen their once lofty positions in the conference standings come under attack. The Knicks currently hold a tenuous one game lead over the Nets for the third spot in the East. The Clippers are a half game ahead of the Grizzlies. And neither team is even assured of home court advantage in the first round at this point -- either team could easily fall to fifth in their conference. The difference is that the Clippers are still playing pretty well, but are being pursued by two of the hottest teams in the league, the Grizzlies and the Nuggets. The Knicks on the other hand are stumbling, losers of five of eight, but are lucky that neither the Nets nor the Bulls are playing much better than they.
  • Grizzlies helping out. The Clippers have retaken third place in the West through nothing they've done. The Grizzlies lost back-to-back games in the Rocky Mountains after beating the Clippers on Wednesday, turning their half game lead into a half game deficit. The Clippers have a chance to build that lead back up to a full game today.
  • What'll the Knicks do? So what will the Knicks do without Carmelo? They'll run a lot of pick and roll with Raymond Felton, they'll run a lot of iso's for J.R. Smith and they'll shoot a LOT of three pointers. But unless either Felton or Smith gets very, very hot it's hard to see them winning today without Anthony.
  • Three point shooting. There may not be any other factor worth mentioning in this game. The Clippers have allowed their opponents to make more than 10 three pointers while hitting better than 40% from deep on 14 occasions this season, and they are 2-12 in those games. The Knicks on the other hand have had 23 games this season where they have made more than 10 three pointers at better than 40% and they are 19-4 in those games. Heck, they actually AVERAGE almost 11 makes per game. The Knicks are on pace to break (really crush) the NBA single season record in both attempts and makes from beyond the arc. They have however cooled off considerably. They're down to .366 from deep -- when these teams played three weeks ago the Knicks were shooting .383.
  • Sixth men. Jamal Crawford of the Clippers and J.R. Smith of the Knicks are first and second in the NBA in scoring among players who have started fewer than 10 games this season. Crawford and Smith are frequently mentioned as leading Sixth Man Award candidates, both second in scoring on winning teams, but frankly there's really no comparison between them right now. Smith, after starting the season white hot, is actually having one of the worst shooting season's of his career, with a true shooting percentage around .500, which is really bad. Crawford is scoring more, and much more efficiently, so there's little question of who has been the better Sixth Man between the two. Jarrett Jack and Kevin Martin have cases -- not Smith.
  • Anthony. Anthony has been having one of the most efficient seasons of his career, but has been suffering with a sore knee recently. He missed New York's game in Portland Thursday night, returning to New York to have fluid drained off the knee. He rejoined the team in L.A. but all indications is that he will not play today.
  • Hill on Anthony. In a way it's too bad that Anthony won't be playing. The first meeting between these two teams turned when Grant Hill started guarding Anthony late in the third quarter. Hill shut Anthony down, New York's offense dried up, and the Clippers pulled away. It would have been fun to watch that battle again, to see if it was a complete fluke or if Hill could shut down Anthony again.
  • Front court mismatch. With no Anthony, no Stoudemire and no Chandler, the Clippers bigs should absolutely destroy the Knicks. Kurt Thomas, Chris Copeland, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby should not be able to keep up with Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. For one thing, Griffin and Jordan won't have to work much on defense, since none of those guys can score much, so they'll be able to save their energy for the offensive end.
  • Chandler and Jordan. I've long maintained that Tyson Chandler should be DeAndre Jordan's role model. There are many similarities. They are first and second in the NBA in field goal percentage. They both have found themselves at the other end of Chris Paul lobs on many occasions. And if you're looking for a reason to believe that Jordan could still continue to improve, consider that Chandler was selected to his first All Star game this season in his 12th season in the league. Jordan has been in the league five years. After five years, Chicago gave up on Chandler and traded him to New Orleans for the 37 year old P.J. Brown (and J.R. Smith as it happens, though Smith was promptly waived). Chandler was not the defensive force his is now really until he'd been in the league 8 or 9 seasons. Perhaps Jordan will continue to develop in a similar manner.
  • Old, old Knicks. The Clippers have some old guys on their team like Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom. But it's nothing compared to the Knicks. Kurt Thomas is the only player in the NBA older than Grant Hill, and Jason Kidd is just behind at 39. Meanwhile Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace are both 38 (though Wallace is currently hurt, what a surprise). Even New York's rookies are old -- Argentine point guard Pablo Prigioni became the oldest rookie in the history of the league this year when he signed with the Knicks at the age of 35.
  • Jacking threes. The Knicks have an astounding five players on their roster who attempt at least four three pointers a game. Kidd and Steve Novak are essentially one trick ponies -- they are two of only four players who've played at least 1000 minutes for whom 75% or more of their field goal attempts have come from behind the arc. That's a lot of threes.
  • Butler and Bledsoe. Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe each missed the Clippers loss against the Grizzlies Wednesday. Butler will almost certainly play today after receiving treatment on his sore elbow and practicing the last couple of days. Bledsoe has been held out of practice and will miss today's game to continue resting his strained calf.
  • Griffin and the Knicks. We all remember Griffin's first game against the Knicks, which was his break out game. Two iconic dunks, the Mozgov and the Gallinari came out of that night. He scored 44 in that one, and has had subsequent games of 21 and 29. His 27.8 point per game average is his second highest against any team in the NBA. He has shot .627 from the field in four games against New York. He scored 17 on 7-12 shooting in the first meeting.
  • Connections. Steve Novak and Marcus Camby spent two seasons together with the Clippers where they were teammates with Jordan and an injured Griffin. Kenyon Martin, who recently signed with the Knicks for the rest of the season after joining them on a couple of 10 day contracts, played for the Clippers last season. Chauncey Billups went to New York as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade; when the Knicks later amnestied him, the Clippers picked him up. Jamal Crawford spent four-plus seasons in New York, his longest stint with any team in his rather well-traveled career. Ronny Turiaf spent a season with the Knicks. Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith were teammates of Chris Paul with the Hornets. Grant Hill and Jason Kidd were co-rookies of the year 18 years ago in 1995. Knicks coach Mike Woodson played two seasons for the Clippers.
  • Get the Knicks perspective at Posting and Toasting.
  • Lyrical reference:

    Mansion Song -- Kate Nash (Lyrics NSFW)

    They're already out of hand and there's no-one here
    To take your hand. It's a cold shower and a scramble
    For a dirty pair of knickers, don't get yours mixed up with hers
    Now get out of bed, get out of bed, get out get out get get out of bed
    Get up, get down & get undressed! Cause that's what you
    Do best, strip, strip strip n shag, fuck get fucked 'n drag,
    And be impressed, by the better sex, take a piece of raw
    Vegetable and hold it to your breast and say you stood
    For nothing. You were just a hole that lacked passion,
    Another undignified product of society.
    That girl should have been a mansion.

    Something about female singer songwriters with potty mouths has always appealed to me. Oh and cockney accents too. A couple of years ago I was listening to Regina Spektor and Lily Allen, and from there Pandora drew a straight line to Kate Nash. I have to say I don't like this "song" (if you can even call it that), but there aren't a lot of references to "knickers" out there, and I do like Kate Nash plenty. If you want a more representative Kate Nash song to listen to, I would recommend Foundations.