FINAL | February 10, 2013 | Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 

Clippers

22

30

19

31

102

LOGO

17

27

26

18

88

 

ERIC PATTEN  

NEW YORK – Bright lights, big stage and the Clippers responded.

Those are the Clippers that rolled off 17 wins in a row; the Clippers that defeated nearly every elite opponent they faced in November.

Playing on ABC’s national NBA showcase for the first time in the regular season since the network acquired the league’s broadcasting rights in 2002, the Clippers defeated the Knicks, 102-88, Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

“That’s a good team we beat over there,” said Chris Paul, who played in his second game since returning from a bruised right kneecap. “A really good team and they’re really good at home. I think it was more about sticking to our game plan tonight.”

The game plan started with Paul, who after scoring a season-low three points in 18 minutes Friday, once again resembled the player who led the Clippers (36-17) to the league’s best record through much of the season’s first two and a half months.

Paul scored nine of his 25 points in the first quarter, setting the Clippers in motion. And then, as he has so many times before, closed the game out.  

After a 6-0 run that pulled the Knicks (32-17) to within six in the fourth quarter, Paul silenced the Garden crowd with a remarkable series that included two of his four steals and a pair of runners that regained control of the game and subsequently put the Knicks away.


“At the end of the day, I [strive] for the situations, just to be the closer and win games,” Paul said.

He finished with 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds, while Blake Griffin added 17 points and 12 rebounds for his team-leading 21st double-double. Jamal Crawford, who spent most of five seasons with the Knicks, led the Clippers with 27 points off the bench, including a 3-pointer from the right wing that gave the Clippers just their fifth 100-point performance as a team in the last 17 games.

“Jamal just hit shot after shot,” Paul said. “And that’s the Jamal Crawford that we love to see. With me and Chauncey [Billups] being back, he gets to go back to his natural position which is score, score the ball. He doesn’t have to play point guard. When he can be him, he’s maybe the best in the league.”

Crawford and Paul’s output was enough to overcome a transcendent offensive performance from superstar Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 42 points. Anthony, though, had just four in the final quarter when guarded primarily by forward Grant Hill.

Hill’s defensive effort was part of an overall resurgence from the bench, which outscored the Knicks 48-15 and tilted the game in the Clippers’ favor in the opening minutes of the second and fourth quarters.

“That’s what we had at the beginning of the season,” Crawford said. “We all know our roles and know what’s expected of us every single night.”

Eric Bledsoe, who started 12 games in Paul’s place, was the kind of menacing presence he was as the point guard of the Clippers’ vaunted bench. With the Clippers down one in the opening minute of the fourth, Bledsoe made a 3-pointer, blocked a layup from a standstill, converted a reverse layup of his own and threw a wondrous bounce pass to a cutting Crawford for a layup. In 19 minutes, Bledsoe scored 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.

“[Bledsoe] changes it just with his athleticism out there, puts a lot of pressure on your defense,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He made some shots tonight, controlled the tempo.”

At certain points, Anthony controlled the tempo for New York. He scored 18 points in a dominant third quarter and had 20 by the halftime buzzer. But the Clippers made it virtually a one-man show.

The Knicks got just 46 points from the rest of the roster, a group that went 19-for-48 and 2-for-12 from 3-point range (Anthony was 5-for 11). It was one of the better overall defensive performances from the Clippers in some time. They forced 16 turnovers, including 10 steals. They were back to playing passing lanes and digging on post players, and most importantly against a team that leads the league in 3-point makes, contesting outside shots with urgency.  

“I thought we did a much better job,” Griffin said. “We had some lapses defensively, especially trying to slow down [Anthony]. But overall, I thought we did a much better job as far as communicating, rotating and playing team basketball.”

The win moves the Clippers to 3-4 on their eight-game road trip. Afterwards Paul talked about getting back on track after a pedestrian last couple of weeks for the team without him.

“It’s good, but we can’t be satisfied,” Paul said. “Philly’s [the Philadelphia 76ers] waiting on us for a big game that ends this road trip. We’ve got to learn from this one, what did well, what we did wrong and go to Philly and get a win before that long flight back home.”

NOTES

Caron Butler did not play in the second half due to a sore lower back… Crawford leads the league with 20 games of 20-plus points off the bench… Billups played for the first time at Madison Square Garden since being waived by the Knicks in Dec. 2011… The Clippers were up 71-70 at the end of the third quarter. They are now 29-2 when leading after the first 36 minutes… The Clippers outrebounded New York, 43-35…

 
LOOKING AHEAD:
 
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11 WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 13

4:00 PM
PHILADELPHIA
76ERS

7:30 PM
HOUSTON
ROCKETS