The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t nothing Chris Paul, but they’re not anything like they are when the best point guard in the NBA is on the floor and healthy, making Carmelo Anthony’s huge night and the New York Knicks look practically helpless in a bizarre fourth quarter.
Paul just returned in the previous game, a 22 point defeat in Miami to the Heat, after missing nine consecutive games, only three of them wins. It wasn’t just the Grammy’s road trip that took the Clippers out of their comfort zone. Blake Griffin played injured until he as well missed a couple of games, while the rest of the Clippers rotation and balance took a hit with Paul out of the picture.
But now he’s back, bringing in one of his best games of the season, finishing with 25 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. Not quite the 42 points performance by Carmelo Anthony, but unlike Anthony, who scored only 4 in the final quarter, when the Clippers play well, it’s especially in the final moments, and something that spreads around the team. The Clippers are 30-11 with Paul this season, 6-6 without him. Makes a world of a difference.
Anthony finished with 42 points on 14-26 from the field. Raymond Felton scored 20 with 9-18 from the field. The rest of the Knicks? Only 26 points while shooting 10-30. You don’t win basketball games like this, even if Anthony is scorching with 38 after the first three quarters. The Clippers turned it up a notch in the fourth, outscoring the Knicks 31-18 en route to their 102-88 win, only the fourth in 12 games, and enjoyed the return of their bench into the action: Jamal Crawford led the team with 27 points, Eric Bledsoe added 13, looking much more comfortable as the energizer bunny off the bench instead of the responsible adult in the starting lineup, while the Clippers’ bench outscored the Knicks 48-15. As good as the Clippers’ bench has been this season, that was the largest margin they’ve had this season.
One of the surprising contributors to the action, and not by scoring, was Grant Hill, who had some great minutes of defending Anthony in the fourth quarter. According to Jamal Crawford, that made the difference between a loss and a win.
I think the game ball goes to Grant Hill. I think that Grant Hill sitting on the bench the whole time, he came in and provided a great presence out there on Melo. I don’t think we win that game without him. There are sentences that make more sense in life, but you get the picture.
Anthony took only two shots in the fourth quarter, not grabbing a single rebound, like the energy was zapped out of him, and he was expecting other guys to make plays too.
There’s four other guys on the basketball court, we’ve just got to make plays and we’ve been doing that all season long. Tonight, today we didn’t make plays in the fourth quarter and we didn’t win the game.
The Clippers simply changed the defensive alignment in the final minutes, sending another defender at Anthony and being more aggressive in approaching the pick n’ roll.Anthony didn’t try to force anything, but neither did his teammates.