CARMAX PREGAME #67: KNICKS VS. CLIPPERS - 3/17/13

PREGAME REPORT | MARCH 17, 2013

 



Tipoff: 12:30 p.m. PST | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »

                                                          

ERIC PATTEN

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LOS ANGELES – New York versus L.A. and the whole country will be watching.

For the second time in a month, the Knicks and Clippers will meet in an ABC national showcase game. Sunday’s matchup is at Staples Center where the Clippers (45-21) have not defeated New York since 2009.

The Knicks (38-25) come in losers of three in a row by an average of 22.7 points per game. The Clippers stretch of 10 wins in their last 14 games began at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 10 when they defeated New York by 14 points despite 42 from Carmelo Anthony.

Still, the four Clipper losses in that span have been to the other teams in the Western Conference’s top five including an 11-point loss Wednesday to Memphis.

“These games are always fun when the whole country’s watching,” Jamal Crawford said. “For us, in the bigger picture, getting back on track, getting some momentum heading into the stretch run is more important than anything.”

Chris Paul said that the Knicks game will be about gearing up for the stretch run.

“This is definitely the stretch run,” Paul said after Saturday’s practice. “The good thing about not necessarily playing as well as we could right now is that we know we could get better. If everything was clicking, it would be like, ‘What can we do?’ Right now, we know we can get better.”

INJURY REPORT

Caron Butler, who missed Wednesday’s game against Memphis with a strained left elbow, is expected to play for the Clippers.

“He’s got a sleeve on it,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It’s not 100%, but I expect him to be available tomorrow.”

Eric Bledsoe (calf) did not practice Saturday and is a game-time decision. Del Negro said Bledsoe is feeling better, but “he still hasn’t practiced in a while, but we’ll get him back here soon hopefully.”

As for the injury-riddled Knicks, All-Stars Anthony (knee) and Tyson Chandler (knee) are both listed as questionable. Amar’e Stoudemire (knee surgery) and Rasheed Wallace (foot) are out.

LAST TIME OUT

Grizzlies 96, Clippers 85: For the fourth time since the All-Star break the Clippers faced off with one of the West’s top teams and came out on the short end of it. After beating the Grizzlies twice earlier in the season, the Clippers were outmuscled by Memphis in the second half of their third meeting Wednesday. They scored 33 points in the final two periods and despite getting as close as three points in the fourth quarter could never get closer. The Grizzlies closed the game on a 15-7 run, while the Clippers committed four turnovers and missed eight of their last nine shots.

“Well we never really got our rhythm I didn’t think in the first half and we kept it tight and then in the third quarter, we started to turn the basketball over,” Del Negro said. “They were on the break and they execute very well. I thought they screened very well tonight. We struggled to make shots.”

Paul scored 24 points with nine assists and Griffin added 22 points with six rebounds and five assists. Memphis had double-digit scoring from four of its five starters, including a team-high 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting by Marc Gasol.

Trail Blazers 105, Knicks 90: After jumping out to a 30-22 lead at the end of the first quarter Thursday in Portland, the Knicks struggled to score the basketball. The Blazers opened up a double-digit lead in the second half behind rookie Damian Lillard’s 26 points and 10 assists. New York was without Anthony and Chandler and despite 33 points from J.R. Smith failed to generate offense otherwise. They shot 43.9% and got no more than 12 points from any other player.

NOTEWORTHY MATCHUP

Jamal Crawford vs. J.R. Smith. They are the preeminent scoring sixth men in the NBA with Crawford leading Smith for the league lead by 0.2 points per game (16.9 to 16.7). They are also among the top five in fourth-quarter plus-minus rating, top 10 in fourth-quarter scoring and are the top two in the NBA in 20-point games off the bench.

Smith has scored 30 or more points in two of the Knicks’ last five games with a 24-point outing sandwiched between. Despite struggling against Memphis (1-for-10 with two points), Crawford was rolling before a sore left ankle sidelined him for two games. He went for 20-plus in a season-high four consecutive games and was shooting near 60% in that stretch.

Last time the Clippers and Knicks played, Crawford outscored Smith 27-6 and shot 54.5% from the floor. It started a string of eight out of 11 games where Crawford shot 50% or better.

WHAT TO WATCH

Defense (defending the 3-pointer and overall intensity). The talk even leading up to the Memphis game Wednesday was about improving on the defensive end of the floor. According to Paul, letdowns on defense have been the reason for the Clippers’ somewhat inconsistent play of late.

“I think we’ve been playing pretty well, but not necessarily playing effective,” Paul said. “Our defense has slipped a lot and that’s I think why we’ve been losing games.”

“I think our intensity is there. We just need to be a little earlier. I think right now we are a step slow on things. I’m not saying quickness wise. We’re catching stuff a second late, so we’ve got to be there a little earlier.”

The Knicks will certainly test the Clippers’ 3-point defense. They average 10.2 3-point makes per game and are 29-6 when making 11 or more. Steve Novak in particular can be troublesome. In the 11 games, New York’s sharpshooting forward has made at least four 3-pointers, they are undefeated.  

Still, in the previous meeting between the two teams, the Clippers managed to hold the Knicks in check from distance.

“I think the Knicks made seven [3-pointers] last time out of 23,” Del Negro said. “We know that’s a big factor [Sunday], so we’re going to have to do a good job there, not only against the Knicks but as we move forward here which we’ve talked about. More sense of urgency to our close out, more sense of urgency of our bigs getting back and pushing our guards out, and just being in tighter to get out to the wing.”

NOTES

The Knicks signed former Clippers big man Kenyon Martin to a rest of the season contract Saturday morning. Martin, who was at the end of his second 10-day contract, spent the final four months of 2011-12 with the Clippers… Other than Martin there are a number of ties between the two teams. Novak and Marcus Camby are also former Clippers. Chandler and Smith played with Paul in New Orleans. And Crawford, Matt Barnes, Chauncey Billups and Ronny Turiaf all played for the Knicks… The Clippers are 3-2 on St. Patrick’s Day since 2005-06.