Two nights after making 17-34 three pointers in Los Angeles against the Mavericks, the Clippers were 3-22 from deep through three quarters against the Knicks in New York. But while their perimeter shots weren't falling the Clippers were playing some great defense against Carmelo Anthony and his 'mates, and despite their own shooting woes, the Clippers led 76-67 through three quarters.
Tied at 50 at the half, the Knicks had taken a 65-62 lead with four minutes left in the third. The Clippers then went on a 23-5 run over the next six plus minutes to break the game wide open. When the Clippers made four three pointers in a row after shooting so dismally in the first three quarters, the game was decided.
Perhaps the law of averages will work in the Clippers favor and they'll make a few more three pointers tomorrow night in Indianapolis against the Pacers. Perhaps not. They will certainly need to hit some shots tomorrow.
J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes combined to make 12-19 threes against the Mavs on Wednesday -- they were 1-10 from deep in New York. In fact, only two guys had good offensive nights for the Clippers, but their nights were very good, and combined with a defense that held the Knicks to 35% shooting (and Anthony in particular to 4-23), it was more than enough.
Blake Griffin posted his sixth 30 point game in less than four weeks, finishing with 32 points, seven rebounds, three steals, and at least two staredowns of Knick Spike Lee sitting courtside. Griffin shot 12-20 from the field and 7-9 from the line and made one three-pointer in a very efficient performance. Jamal Crawford had his first really good game in about a month, scoring 29 points on just 14 shots. He led all Clippers in plus/minus with a +21 in his 29 minutes, and it's not surprising considering that the second half run started just as Jamal checked into the game.
The bad news is that for the second straight game the Clippers gave up far too many offensive rebounds. After allowing 17 offensive rebounds to the Mavericks, they gave up 20 to the Knicks, but at least these didn't hurt quite as much since the Knicks couldn't make anything. Still, as of now this is a major problem for the Clippers and they're going to have to control their defensive glass if they hope to do well against good teams.
The Clippers are now on a five game winning streak and are 6-1 overall without Chris Paul on the season. They've only beaten one team with a winning record in that time -- but what's important is that they are winning, and most of the time in impressive fashion. Three of their last five victories have been by double digits.
The Clippers held Anthony in check through sheer hard work. Four different Clippers took the assignment at one time or another, and the team accumulated some foul trouble in the process, sending Anthony to the line 16 times where he was perfect on the evening. But 26 points on 23 shots and 16 free throws is terrible efficiency, and the Clippers will take it every time against the Knicks. Melo did have 20 rebounds, but it should be noted that six of those were on the offensive end, usually of his own miss. Jared Dudley got first crack at Anthony, and wound up being limited to 19 minutes because of foul trouble. Matt Barnes took a similar shift on Carmelo, and Reggie Bullock and eventually Griffin all took their turn. It was a true team effort.
J.R. Smith had his best game in awhile for the Knicks, scoring 24 points on 9-18 shooting. A lot of his scoring came late in the game after the outcome had more or less been decided, but Knicks fans are no doubt hopeful that this is a sign that he's busting out of his season-long slump.
Hedo Turkoglu made his Clippers debut, playing seven minutes, scoring two points and grabbing a rebound. He made his only shot, which doesn't mean a lot but it's better than if he'd missed it. Truthfully, he probably should have gotten a couple of assists as well, but good passes he made to open shooters led to missed shots from his ice cold perimeter teammates. Even in limited minutes, you can tell that he has a terrific feel for the game -- but whether he still has the athleticism and the touch to be effective will require more than seven minutes to determine. As suspected, he played all of his minutes at the four.
The Clippers have no time to savor their season sweep of the Knicks as they're now off to Indiana to face the Pacers in about 20 hours. Indiana's home record of 20-1 is best in the NBA (the Clippers are second at 18-3). Extending their winning streak to six games will be very tough, but if Griffin and Crawford can keep it rolling, if they continue to play tough defense AND if they can make some threes and rebound the basketball, they at least have a chance.