The game did not start super auspiciously, with the Clippers looking a bit out of sorts on both ends. They left the Knicks open on defense, and couldn’t finish on offense. However, the Knicks failed to convert on their open looks, and Landry Shamet (more on him later) hit two threes to give the Clips a bit of a cushion. The Knicks continued to misfire, and timeouts by coach David Fizdale did not help. Meanwhile, they kept leaving Shamet open from three, and he absolutely lit them up, nailing 6-7 threes in the quarter. When the bench came in, the onslaught continued, mostly courtesy of JaMychal Green, and the Clippers led 38-20 at the end of the quarter.
The floodgates really opened the in the 2nd quarter. Despite the best efforts of Mitchell Robinson as a rim protector and rim-runner for the Knicks, the Clippers defended the hell out of the Knicks’ perimeter guys, forcing turnovers and missed shots. Once they got out on the break, the Clippers were able to get easy shots, with Lou going to the foul line and Green and Montrezl Harrell cleaning up inside. Ty Wallace and Garrett Temple’s defense was tremendous, leading to the entire team getting into rhythm on that end. The starters checked back in, and extended the lead further and further. Shai looked incredibly comfortable running the offense, Gallo scored at will, and Pat Beverley hustled all over the place. The result was an 82-46 halftime lead.
It was to be expected that the Clippers come out flat in the 3rd up by such a large margin, by the extent of their malaise was still surprising. Noah Vonleh scored eight straight points against a bewildered Ivica Zubac, while the Clippers floundered on offense. Shai eventually got them back on track, finding Gallinari for an open three and then hitting a layup in transition with an absurdly good finish. The Clippers appeared back in control, but then fell apart again: they weren’t moving the ball on offense, were missing open shots, allowing the Knicks to get easy layups and threes, and generally playing with no effort. If the Knicks were even slightly better they could have made it a real game, but as it was, they closed the lead to around 21 and made the Clippers start working again.
The 4th quarter went much the same way as the end of the 3rd, with the Clippers playing just well enough, and the Knicks just poorly enough, to keep the lead in the low 20 point range. Eventually, as time continued to slip away and the Knicks failed to get close, Doc put in the bench, and they closed the game out fine, if rather unexcitedly, giving the Clippers a 128-107 victory.
Shamet on fire: While it was a group effort, the game was largely won by the hot shooting of Landry Shamet in the first quarter. He hit 6-7 threes, and generally looked as if he could make any shot in the world. The Knicks’ poor defense did not help matters, but Shamet’s ability to run off screens and find open space is invaluable, and the Clippers’ other players did a great job at finding him. He cooled off as the game went along, with the Knicks honing in on preventing him from getting open, but he still set several records for Clippers’ three-point shooting, including most makes in a game by a rookie, and most makes in a half. He’s a truly deadly shooter, and pairing him with Shai is a wonderful combination.
Shai continues to thrive: Make that three standout games in a row from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who might be playing as well as he has all season. He had 15 points on 6-9 shooting, made 2 of his 3 threes, and had some truly spectacular finishes around the basket. He added some nice rebounds, a few gorgeous passes, and his usual solid defense. He’s just really confident right now, and when he is, the Clippers look like a different team.
Pat hits the glass: Pat Beverley assaulted the boards again today, pulling in 10 rebounds in 25 minutes. His ability to get rebounds in traffic amongst the trees is just incredible to watch, and the Clippers’ improved rebounding is largely due to his efforts (along with JaMychal Green). On the other hand, he might be the Clippers best rebounder right now, and that’s not a great sign for upcoming games against playoff-caliber opponents with dominant big men. The Clippers will rebound by committee, and Pat can lead that committee, but ultimately, other guys need to step up.
Key players get rest: With a huge game against the Lakers tomorrow evening, it was imperative that the Clippers key guys get some rest in this one. And, while the Knicks perhaps made things slightly uncomfortable in the 3rd and 4th quarters, Doc was able to keep minutes low for all his key players. Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams playing 23 and 22 minutes respectively was crucial, as both guys have looked run down in recent games, and will be needed big-time against the Lakers. Nobody on the team played over 30 minutes, and Shai and Shamet, the two youngest rotation players, led the team in minutes once again.
We have our playoff tracker here, but the long and short of the situation is that the Clippers are now 36-29, sitting at 7th place in the Western Conference. Most importantly, they are now 3.5 games up on the Kings, and 5 up on the Lakers. A win tomorrow could be a deciding factor in getting them to the postseason. Buckle up for another key game tomorrow!