Tipoff: 10:00 a.m. PST | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | Game Notes »


Eric Patten


NEW YORK – The return of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford to the lineup did not help the Clippers emerge from their recent doldrums. They have lost eight of their last 11 games, including seven losses without Paul or Billups, after falling to the Miami Heat in game six of their season-long eight-game road trip.

Next, the Clippers (35-17) venture into snowy New York to meet the Knicks at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon, playing the front end of ABC’s national double-header. It is the first time in the regular season L.A. has been featured in the network’s weekend NBA showcase.

Merely getting to New York, which has been blanketed with several inches of snow over the last 24 hours, was thought to be an issue for both teams. The Knicks (32-16) delayed their return from Minneapolis until Saturday morning after airports in the tri-state area were shut down. The Clippers left Miami Saturday afternoon following a practice at American Airlines Center, a plan went unchanged despite the inclement weather 1,200 miles north.


Heat 111, Clippers 89: Griffin scored 13 points, DeAndre Jordan led the team in scoring for the first time since his rookie year (17 points) and Crawford had 13 off the bench. But the Clippers were blitzed by a shorthanded Heat team that made 15 of its 27 3-pointers, including a 4-for-5 effort from LeBron James, who was near flawless scoring 30 points on 11 shots.

Miami pulled away with a 20-3 run in the third quarter, expanding a 12-point halftime lead to as large as 32. James was the catalyst during the stretch as was Miami’s aggressive defense. They forced 19 Clippers’ turnovers, turning that into 24 points.

Despite the frustration with losing, several members of the Clippers sounded optimistic about the direction of the team if they can remain healthy.

“To have everybody back healthy is good for us,” Crawford said. “And we’ll continue to build on what we’re doing.”

Knicks 100, Timberwolves 94: New York turned the table on the host Timberwolves in the fourth quarter, erasing an 11-point deficit and escaping the Twin Cities with the sixth win in its last seven games. Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points, including a 19-footer to give the Knicks the lead with 1:10 to go, and had 12 in the decisive period. J.R. Smith added 15 points off the bench, making two of his five 3-pointers. The Knicks outscored the Timberwolves by 21 points from behind the arc.


Jamal Crawford vs. J.R. Smith. There is a lot similar between the East and West’s number one scorers off the bench. They were both considered strong All-Star candidates, yet failed to be selected. They both are valuable fourth-quarter scorers for their respective teams. And both have overcome past reputations and gunners with no long-term memory to crucial pieces in their teams’ success.

Crawford, who is averaging 16.8 points per game (second on the Clippers), is No. 1in the NBA in 20-point games off the bench with 19. He’s had two in the last week, including 28 on Monday against the Wizards. He’s also been playing through a nasal fracture and a sore right shoulder that caused him to miss Wednesday night’s game in Orlando.

Smith has 13 20-point games off the bench and has scored in double-figures in his last eight games after going scoreless in 27 minutes at Philadelphia on Jan. 26. He’s also nailed game-winning shots, most recently against Phoenix, and threw down one of the best dunks of the year, a double-clutch reverse alley-oop.


Turnovers. The Clippers continued to struggle to take care of the ball in Miami. Over the last four games they are giving up 18.5 turnovers per game, leading to 24.25 points per game for their opponents. It is a problem that seemingly will be alleviated by the return of Paul and Billups. Paul is second in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio and Billups has long been known as one of the savviest decision-makers in the league.

Compounding the turnovers on offense has been a lack of forced turnovers and easy points on defense. It was an area the Clippers thrived in earlier in the year, but has been lacking lately.

“When we play great defense it gets us out in transition and gets us some easy buckets,” Griffin said. “It gets everybody going and feeling a little better, so we have a better tempo. We’ve got to be sharp defensively from the beginning.”

Three-pointers. The Clippers’ 3-point defense has been problematic at various times this season, but lately it has been near the bottom of the league. They are allowing nine 3-pointers per game over the last 11 games with opponents shooting 44.9% in that span. That included three games against the Heat, Thunder and Warriors (the top three teams in the league in 3-point field goal percentage). Still, a handful of the porous 3-point defense came against the league’s worst teams from behind the arc, including Toronto, Boston and Portland.

On Sunday that area will be greatly tested. The Knicks shoot 38.3% from 3-point range and lead the NBA with 11.2 makes per game. Anthony, Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni are shooting better than 38% on the year. But they are led by 3-point Shootout contestant and former Clippers Steve Novak, who averages 2.0 makes for every 4.5 attempts (44.1%).


Billups will play his first game at Madison Square Garden since being waived by the Knicks after the 2010-11 season… Griffin has averaged 31.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in three-career games versus New York. It is his highest scoring average against any team in the league… Anthony has scored 20 points or more in 39 of his 41 games this year… The Clippers are 26-2 when leading after the first quarter (best in the NBA). The Knicks are tied for second with a record of 20-3… Despite starting out their Grammy road trip 2-4, the Clippers can still achieve only the third such trip in 13 years of .500 or better with wins in their final two games.