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Clippers-Knicks Preview: Respect the Game

The Clippers are looking to continue their win streak and build some playoff momentum by taking care of business against the worst team in the league.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season

March 25t, 2015, 4:00 PM (PST)
Madison Square Garden
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
16-11 East 8-34
30-14 West 6-23
27-10 Home 9-25
19-15 Road 5-32
19-20 .500+ 5-28
27-5 .500- 9-29
6-4 L10 2-8
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Langston Galloway
J.J. Redick SG Alexey Shved
Matt Barnes SF Lance Thomas
Blake Griffin PF Lou Amundson
DeAndre Jordan C Andrea Bargnani
Advanced Stats
96.80 (11th of 30) Pace 93.38 (28th of 30)
109.3 (2nd of 30) ORtg 97.6 (29rd of 30)
103.5 (19th of 30) DRtg 107.4 (29th of 30)
Jamal Crawford (calf) out
Alexey Shved (ribs) probable
Nate Robinson (knee) questionable
Carmelo Anthony (knee) out

Jose Calderon (achilles) out

Tim Hardaway Jr. (wrist) questionable

Cleanthony Early (ankle) probable

Travis Wear (back) questionable

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

Date Venue Final

12/31/14 Los Angeles Clippers 99, Knicks 78 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

This is a business game for the Clippers. Facing one of the easier seven game stretches of the season and on a four game win streak, the Clippers should have no trouble against the Knicks tonight as long as they don't take a win for granted and play down to their competition. Too many times this season the Clippers have suffered heartbreaking losses against teams they should have beaten, the last time they played in New York against the Nets comes to mind, and they simply cannot allow that to happen against the team with the worst record in the association. At this point in the season, every game matters in determining playoff seedings in a highly competitive Western Conference, and the Clippers can't afford any hiccups. With Portland's loss last night, while the Clippers remain in the 5th seed due to division leader rules, the Clippers have a better record than the Blazers and lie only 1.5 games back from the Rockets for the 3rd seed, two back in the loss column. Having benefited from two days of rest, and likely some needed practice time, it would be nice to see Blake Griffin continue rounding into his dominant form; the Knicks always seem to bring out his best. This should be an easy win for the Clippers if they come ready to play.

The Antagonist:

To be blunt, the Knicks are terrible. They have the worst record in the NBA, quite honestly resemble a D-League team in the assemblage of characters they are playing each night; whenever Alexey Shved is the last person announced in your starting lineup to get the crowd going, you know you have a major problem. Almost all of the Knicks noteworthy, or simply recognizable players, have either been traded away, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, or lost to injury, Carmelo Anthony and Jose Calderon. While these Knicks come in on a four game losing streak, and have lost 11 of their past 13, just one week ago they did beat the Spurs at home in an overtime thriller. As Popovich chided his team for "not respecting" the opponent or the game, the Knicks have shown through some bright play by Langston Galloway and Alexey Shved that they are capable of an upset and cannot simply be overlooked as an easy win. All that being said, the Knicks should prove unable to keep up with the high-powered offense of the Clippers.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers play at a much faster pace than the Knicks and will look to push the ball and get out in transition, especially as the Knicks are near the bottom 10 in coughing up turnovers. Offensively and defensively, the Clippers are far superior to the Knicks, though there is an immense gulf between the two teams scoring capabilities with the Clippers second and the Knicks second to last.
  • Making a Run. As Clipper Steve pointed out in an earlier post, the Clippers, having just escaped the Gauntlet, have an much easier remaining schedule in comparison to other Western Conference contenders jockeying for playoff seeding. Looking at the the upcoming road trip, the Clippers play the Knicks tonight, then the 76ers, and finally a scrappy potential playoff team in the Celtics. These are all games the Clippers should win, and the road has been a place to build momentum earlier in the season for this team. Going into the showdown with the Warriors on March 31st, the Clippers should be riding a 7 game win streak and playing with a ton of confidence.
  • Clipper Starters. While much can be said about the dismal bench of the Clippers, what cannot be denied is that their starting unit is elite. The Clippers starting five has logged the most minutes out of any 5-man unit in the NBA so far at 962, despite major injury to Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes being in and out of the lineup, and are the second best taking into account net rating behind only the Warriors. With Griffin out, DeAndre Jordan channeled his inner Wilt Chamberlin/Bill Russell spirit and posted ridiculous numbers, Chris Paul took it up to another MVP caliber gear, and J.J. Redick has shouldered the burden of heavy minutes while doing his best human torch impersonation. Matt Barnes is still the Clippers best wing defender and happens to be shooting 38% from deep on the season, and over 40% since the All-Star break. Adding to all of this is the second best power forward in the NBA, and a top ten player overall. I don't feel shy about saying that if healthy, this starting five can compete with anyone in the playoffs.
  • Life Without Melo. After the All-Star break Carmelo Anthony chose to shut it down for the season in order to undergo surgery to clean up a wobbly knee that had been plaguing him all season. With Carmelo, the Knicks were bad this year and in addition to trading off J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, there seemed to be no reason left to log additional miles on Melo's aging body. Say what you will about Carmelo as a player, but the one thing he can do is score. Taking Melo out of the lineup though has made the Knicks's offense go from bad to terrible. Since February 18th, the Knicks are averaging a league worst 93.5 offensive rating and are posting an appalling negative 13.1 net rating. To put that in perspective, the Timberwolves have the second worst net rating at -6.2, meaning the Knicks are two times worse than the next worse team. Leaving all stats aside, when a team is primary counting on Alexey Shved and Langston Galloway to be your primary scorers, putting points on the board is an inevitable struggle.
  • Going Downs for Towns In 1985 the NBA held the first "lottery" draft and the Knicks were lucky enough (unless you are a frozen envelope conspiracy theorist) to land the first pick in the draft. They chose the consensus number one player and eventual Hall of Fame player Patrick Ewing, whom helped turn the franchise around and lead them to the 1994 Finals. The Knicks appear to be trying to recreate history this year as they are successfully tanking with the worst record in the association, hoping to land the number one pick in the 2015 draft with which they can take another hopefully franchise center in either Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky or Jahlil Okafor from Duke. Knicks fans are betting on the future; hoping to hit big in free agency while also adding a superstar rookie, finally give some support to Carmelo Anthony and making the franchise relevant again.
  • Kerr Could Haves. Remember when it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Steve Kerr was going to the Knicks this summer because of his tutelage under Phil Jackson? Instead Kerr chose to go to Golden State and coach what is now the team with the best record in the NBA, likely winning him the coach of the year award, as well as the best start of any rookie coach. Meanwhile, Derek Fisher is the captain of the worst team in basketball, submarining at the bottom of the league. It seems pretty safe to say Kerr made the right coaching choice.
  • Connections. Jamal Crawford spent four-plus seasons in New York, his longest stint with any team in his rather well-traveled career. Lou Amundson was a Clipper training camp participant last season. Clippers assistant coach Mike Woodson coached the Knicks last season. 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.
  • Get the Knicks perspective at Posting and Toasting.
  • Wikipedia Knickerbocker Glory. A Knickerbocker glory is a very elaborate layered ice cream sundae served primarily in the United Kingdom. Starting in the 1930s, the treat goes well beyond a banana split and features many layers of ice cream, fruit, cream, and candies all placed in a tall glass topped with whipped cream, nuts, syrup, and often a cherry. "They ate in the zoo restaurant, and when Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory wasn't big enough, Uncle Vernon bought him another one, and Harry was allowed to finish the first." – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone