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Clippers-Knicks preview: Hedo era begins with Grammy trip

The Clippers begin their seven game Grammy trip in New York against the Knicks. New York has been playing better lately, but they're coming off a 28 points loss to the Pacers and are playing the second game of a back to back.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Regular Season

January 17th, 2014, 4:00 PM
Madison Square Garden
Prime Ticket, ESPN, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
9-6 East 12-14
18-7 West 3-10
18-3 Home 7-12
9-10 Road 8-12
9-9 >.500 6-13
18-4 <.500 9-11
7-3 L10 6-4
5-1 noCP3 N/A
Probable Starters
Darren Collison PG Raymond Felton
J.J. Redick SG Iman Shumpert
Jared Dudley SF Carmelo Anthony
Blake Griffin PF Andrea Bargnani
DeAndre Jordan C Tyson Chandler
Advanced Stats
98.32 (7th of 30) Pace 32.49 (30th of 30)
107.1 (5th of 30) ORtg 102.2 (18th of 30)
100.8 (7th of 30) DRtg 105.1 (24th of 30)
Chris Paul (separated shoulder) out
Pablo Prigioni (toe) out

Amare Stoudemire (ankle) out

Kenyon Martin (ankle) out

Metta World Peace (knee) out

The Back Story (Clippers lead the season series 1-0):

Date Venue Final

11/27/13 Los Angeles Clippers 103, Knicks 90 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are coming off perhaps the greatest regular season comeback in franchise history on Wednesday, when the rallied from 17 down to win the game on a 23-4 in the final four plus minutes. Of course, they also gave up a 32-6 directly prior to the comeback, allowed Dallas to score 127 points in the game, and were completely trashed on the boards. So while the win was exciting and rewarding, there's plenty to work on and worry about. The team went unbeaten in their four game home stand all without the injured Chris Paul, but the road could be a different story. They've embarked on a journey that will have them criss-crossing the east and great lakes to play seven games in 11 days. They'd be wise to win this first one, because this is as fresh as their going to feel in a while. The return of J.J. Redick to the lineup has the offense humming, even without Paul -- they've have scored 252 points in the two games since Redick's been back. Now they just have to figure out what happened to the defense and rebounding in the Dallas game. Blake Griffin and Darren Collison have been playing well since Paul's injury and they'll need to continue to do so if the Clippers wish to get their road record above .500 (they're starting the trip 9-10 on the season). It remains to be seen how much he'll help, given that he hasn't played NBA basketball in almost a year, but the newest Clipper, Hedo Turkoglu, will be in uniform in New York, trying to be the stretch four that Doc Rivers covets so dearly.

The Antagonist:

The Knicks have been playing much, much better of late, but they are hurting as the Clippers come to town. For one thing, they're at the end of a sequence of four games in four cities in five days. So although the Clippers have a tough trip ahead of them, they will actually be the more rested team in this game. To make matters worse, the Knicks lost their top two reserve big men, Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin, to ankle injuries in the course of being blown out by Indiana last night. The Knicks are, as always, led by Carmelo Anthony, who is second in the NBA in scoring. After Anthony, it gets pretty dicey for New York, as Carmelo averages almost twice as much as the team's second leading scorer, Andrea Bargnani. J.R. Smith, who was the team's second leading scorer last season and won the NBA's Sixth Man award, has been in coach Mike Woodson's doghouse lately, and has gotten DNP's in two of the team's last five games.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Knicks, despite their recent improved play, remain a bad team statistically. They were very, very bad... now they're just bad. They also play at the slowest pace in the league, and the Clippers will definitely want to try to speed this game up if they can.
  • The Turkoglu era. Who knows what to expect from Hedo Turkoglu tonight? It's been almost a full year since he has played NBA basketball. I'm really just curious to see what happens as a fan.
  • Defending Carmelo. Although he played a ton of four last season, Carmelo's been playing mostly three this year. He creates mismatches at either spot because let's face it, he's a scoring machine, capable of scoring in a variety of ways. Jared Dudley is as well suited to defend Carmelo as anyone the Clippers have had for a while, and Matt Barnes will make him work, but that's a tough cover for either of those guys. Keeping Carmelo from going off will be a key for the Clippers tonight.
  • The Redick effect. The Clippers offense is so much better with Redick. It's hard to explain why he should have so huge an impact, but he certainly has. He's the difference between a top 3 offensive rating and a middle of the pack offensive rating this season, and they've hit the century mark in each of the last two games since his return. Here's one thing I know -- the first play the Clippers run tonight will be to get Redick a shot.
  • Streaking Knicks. The Knicks have obviously been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this season, with a 15-24 record after winning 54 games last season. But they have started playing better lately, with quality wins over Miami, San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas in the month of January. The difference is that Tyson Chandler is healthy, Iman Shumpert has broken out of a terrible slump, and some starts are starting to fall.
  • Big trouble. The Knicks lost essentially all of their front court depth last night in Indianapolis against the Pacers. Backup bigs Amare Stoudemire and former Clipper Kenyon Martin both left the game with sprained ankles and neither is expected to play tonight against the Clippers. Against Griffin and Jordan, that's going to be a problem. Cole Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler will be forced into action. When Jeremy Tyler faced Blake Griffin as a member of the Warriors, it didn't go well for him, if I recall correctly.
  • The schedule giveth. The Clippers don't seem to catch a lot of schedule breaks, but they just happen to be catching the Knicks playing their fourth game in five nights, with travel between all of them. With the Knicks returning to Gotham from Indianapolis after being blown out by the Pacers, and the Clippers just beginning their road trip and playing their second game in a week, it's clearly the Knicks who should be the tired team tonight.
  • And the schedule taketh away. The Knicks just at Conseco, which is where the Clippers will be tomorrow, playing the Pacers on the second game of a back-to-back. The Pacers just happen to have the best home record in the NBA. In a way it's good -- the winnable games on this trip mostly come with a day off before, and they would struggle to beat the Pacers without CP3 even if they weren't tired. So tomorrow looks like a schedule loss (and a loss loss). The opposition isn't too tough, but the travel schedule is truly brutal. Seven games on the road, then one LA, then in Oakland (on a back-to-back again), then back to LA, then off to Denver, then back to LA. That's 11 straight games where the team arrives in a town, plays one game, and leaves. It's more like an 11 game road trip than a seven game road trip.
  • Winning without Paul. The Clippers have won four straight without Chris Paul, and are 5-1 overall without him. Sure, four of the wins have come against teams with losing records, but any win without your best player is a good win. As it happens, the Clippers also played the final 18 minutes or so without Paul when the defeated the Knicks in L.A. That was the game where Paul tweaked his hamstring, and playing without him in the fourth quarter the Clippers held the Knicks to just 12 points to win comfortably. It's the second game in a row that the Clippers have played a rematch against a team they had already beaten in a game where Paul was hurt. Darren Collison has obviously been huge for the Clippers in Paul's absence.
  • The Blake-for-Melo thing. Lately, when I answer questions for other blogs as part of the game buildup, I invariably get the Blake-for-Melo question. As you all know, this is an absurd rumor and the Clippers would never consider that swap.
  • Bargs and Mully. If seven footers who like to shoot three pointers and look hilariously lost trying to defend a pick and roll is your thing, then this is the game for you. The Clippers' Byron Mullens is a poor man's Andrea Bargnani -- and by poor man's, I mean Bargnani makes 12 times more money than Mullens. Bargs is the better player -- he can score in more ways and his individual post defense isn't as bad, though Mullens is the far better rebounder -- but when you're feeling depressed about having Mulligan on the roster, just remind yourself that the Clippers aren't paying him $12M. Oh, and Bargnani starts for the Knicks while Mullens is no longer in the rotatoin.
  • Three point shooting. The Knicks set NBA single season records last year, taking 2371 three pointers and making 891. Those 891 makes were just shy of 11 per game -- that's a season long average! Wow. So far this season, they are making 8.5 per game. They are taking fewer, but more than that, they just aren't making them the way they were last year. The Clippers on the other hand are taking a lot more threes, though they certainly aren't falling with the frequency Doc Rivers would like. The Clippers attempt 24.1 threes per game and the Knicks take 23.9, and both are in top eight in the league in attempts, so you can expect a lot of long bombs in this one. With the return of J.J. Redick, a rebirth for Jared Dudley and a sudden surge from Matt Barnes on Wednesday, maybe the Clippers can be a decent three point shooting after all. Redick made 7-9 from deep against Dallas and is up to 39% on the season as a result.
  • Sixth men. Last season, J.R. Smith of the Knicks edged out Jamal Crawford of the Clippers for the Sixth Man Award, a decision I found strange to say the least given Smith's incredibly inefficient scoring. This season, Crawford is again a candidate for the award as we arrive at the season midpoint (he's leading the league in scoring among non-starters) while Smith is... shooting 36% from the field and picking up DNPs from coach Mike Woodson. Crawford has been slumping lately and his efficiency numbers are way down (.518 TSP after .558 last season) but the voters sure seem to like points, as evidenced by Smith's win last year. Hopefully Crawford can break out of his shooting slump sooner rather than later, as the Clippers could certainly use the boost.
  • Chandler and Jordan. I've long maintained that Tyson Chandler should be DeAndre Jordan's role model. This season, new head coach Doc Rivers has encouraged Jordan to embrace Chandler's defense first, second and third mentality and Jordan seems to be responding to the challenge. There are many similarities between the two. They both entered the NBA as young, raw talents (and they were both drafted by the Clippers, as it happens.) 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 last season in his 12th season in the league. This is just Jordan's sixth year in the NBA. At a similar point in Chandler's career, Chicago had given up on him 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 eight or nine seasons. Jordan's first half season focusing exclusively on defense has gone about as well as can be expected, and hopefully he can continue to develop the way Chandler did.
  • 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. He is averaging 23 points per game on better than 57% shooting in six career games against the Knicks.
  • Jordan. Although he had one of his poorest games of the season on Wednesday, in general Jordan has been very good lately. The Knicks will put Chandler on Griffin -- leaving Bargnani to deal with Jordan. Bargnani is actually not a terrible post defender, so it's not really a go-to matchup for the Clippers. However, DeAndre should be looking to get on the offensive glass and get out on the break, where he can overwherm Bargs with his athleticism.
  • Connections. Kenyon Martin played for the Clippers two seasons ago. Jamal Crawford spent four-plus seasons in New York, his longest stint with any team in his rather well-traveled career. Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith were teammates of Chris Paul with the Hornets. Knicks coach Mike Woodson played two seasons for the Clippers. Clippers coach Doc Rivers was traded from the Clippers to the Knicks in 1992 in a blockbuster deal that brought Mark Jackson to the Clippers. Chandler was originally a Clippers draft pick, but was traded to the Bulls on draft day for Elton Brand.
  • Get the Knicks perspective at Posting and Toasting.
  • Shakespearean reference:

    Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, Scene 1, Nick Bottom

    Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason
    for that: and yet, to say the truth, reason and
    love keep little company together now-a-days; the
    more the pity that some honest neighbours will not
    make them friends. Nay, I can gleek upon occasion.

    There are no Knicks nor indeed knickerbockers in Shakespeare, so I have to improvise here. I considered going with pantaloons, another fancy word for pants (fancy pants at that), but I went a different direction. One of the subplots of Midsummer Night's Dream involves a group of craftsmen who decide to put on a play, and the weaver Nick Bottom provides a good deal of comic relief throughout Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identity. Bottom is eventually cursed to have the head of an ass after which the faerie queen Titania falls in love with him because of a love potion. Hilarity ensues.