Led by 30 points out of Blake Griffin and double-doubles from both Chris Paul (13 points, 13 assists) and DeAndre Jordan (14 points, 10 boards), the LA Clippers earned a low-stress 114-105 win over the New York Knicks on Monday night.
The bench almost made a hash of things late, but luckily they had enough of a lead to hold off a late rally from Sasha Vujacic and friends. Yep, Sasha Vujacic is still on an NBA roster. Phil Jackson for Executive of the Year.
The Knicks stuck around throughout much of the first half before the Clips turned it on after halftime. A 34-19 advantage in the third quarter effectively ended the game after 36 minutes, and LA was afforded the chance to rest the starters for the entirety of the game’s final frame.
The Clippies (nickname trademark pending) looked like a real, functioning basketball offense to start this one. J.J. Redick was getting open looks after furiously running off of eight off-ball screens, while the pick-and-roll was generating high percentage looks at the rim for both DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.
Griffin looked particularly frisky in the early going, which was good to see considering his recent tepid form. He canned five of his first six shots from the floor (including a three!) and scored 13 of LA’s first 22 points. The latter stages of the first period were rather ugly, yet the Clips held a 29-23 edge after one.
The Knicks began the second quarter with a five of Marshall Plumlee, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Lance Thomas, Justin Holiday and Ron Baker. Despite countering with a lineup featuring Paul Pierce, this was still a golden opportunity for the Clips to extend the lead.
They didn’t really extend the lead, but at least they didn’t blow it, either. Fortunately, the starters came back and did start to create some distance. With Kristaps Porzingis on the bench late in the second, the Knicks resorted to trying to guard Griffin with Carmelo Anthony. The Clips predictably tried to exploit that matchup repeatedly down the stretch of the first half.
The defense wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders, though. Carmelo was getting whatever he wanted on the other end with Luc Mbah a Moute curiously sitting on the bench until the final minute of the second quarter. Despite shooting better than 55 percent from the floor at the half, the Clippers led by just 10 at the break.
LAC finally stepped on the gas following the break. Griffin continued to blitz whatever’s left of the New York defense and got up to 30 points in just 31 minutes of work. He drilled another pair of triples in the third period, bringing him to three for the game, equaling the career-high for 3PM in a game that he originally set back on February 26th against Charlotte.
CP3 wasn’t aggressively looking to score, but he didn’t have to, either. The Knicks weren’t providing much resistance at all, so Paul was more than content to get his teammates involved and coast offensively. He still finished with 13 points, 13 assists and five rebounds without having to give max effort. In related news, Chris Paul is good.
With another game looming tomorrow night, winning this game early was always priority No. 1 for LAC. They were able to do away with the miserable Knicks rather easily, which means the regulars should be fit to play a full complement of minutes tomorrow night against the Lakers. Hopefully that won’t be necessary, of course, as the Lakers are utter trash, but you never know.
The Jazz and Thunder also both lost tonight, which means the Clippers gained some steam on the No. 4 spot. The jury’s out on whether the Clips should even want the 4 or 5 seeds with the Warriors potentially looming in the second round, but it is what it is. The Clippers certainly aren’t ones to intentionally tank their way to the sixth seed just to avoid Golden State in round two. Whether they happen to do so accidentally is another story...
For now, though, the Clippers earned a second consecutive convincing victory on national television. With the Lakers in shameless, overt tanking mode, it’s safe to say the Clips be riding a three-game winning streak by the time we all wake up on Wednesday morning.