Written by William Lee
Raymond Felton made his return to the Knicks after missing the last four games with some nerve complications in his hip. At first Felton looked out of sync with his teammates committing two quick turnovers, but quickly got back on track, finishing the game with 12 points and 7 assist. Blake Griffin got into early foul trouble, picking up his second foul before the half way mark of the first quarter. With the Clippers’ superstar forward on the bench, the Clippers united as a group to take a 29-27 first quarter lead. The Clippers had eight players score by the end of the first quarter. Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani got off to a quick start, both finishing in double digit scoring by the end of the first quarter predicated by the Knicks better ball movement. The Knicks finished the first quarter with eight assist on eleven made field goals.
Basketball is a game of runs, and the second quarter featured three prolonged runs. The Clippers opened up the second quarter on an 11-2 run to take a 40-29 lead with 8:20 remaining in the second quarter. The Knicks then went on a 13-0 run to regain the lead 42-40, during this run the Clippers took and missed four straight threes. The Clippers then went on a 9-3 run to end the first half leading 49-45. During the two prolonged Clippers’ runs there was one common denominator; Amare Stoudemire was in the game defending the paint for the Knicks. The first Clipper run ended when Stoudemire was substituted out at 8:13, and then the Clippers went on the run to end the quarter when Stoudemire checked back into the game at 3:37 left in the first half. Whenever Stoudemire was in the game, there was a clear path to the rim, he was completely lost on defense. He finished the first quarter with a +/- of -21, as compared to the current best Knicks defender Kenyon Martin, who had a +17 at the end of the first half. Overall Stoudemire finished the game with an even worse+/- at an astonishing -29, while Martin was by far the best Knick in +/- staying at +17.
In the third quarter the Knicks got as close as one point, behind back to back threes from Raymond Felton. This trimmed the Clippers’ lead to one 59-58 with 6:55 remaining in the third quarter. The two threes stopped a draught from threes from the Knicks, as they had missed 12 straight. This year’s Knicks look nothing like record breaking three pointers made Knicks of last year. The Knicks are currently 10th in three point field goals made at 8.3 threes made per game. This is despite being in the bottom third of the league in three point shooting percentage, at 33% which is 20th in the league. Even with the low percentage the Knicks are still attempting threes at a very high rate, 25.2 to be exact, good for third most attempts in the league. The decrease in efficiency can best be explained by the change in personnel, with the departure of Chris Copeland (59 made threes), Jason Kidd (114 made threes), and Steve Novak (149 made threes), the Knicks now lack legit three point shooting threats to space the floor. The Knicks need to understand that they do not have the same personnel as last year, and stop attempting so much threes.
The Knicks failed to take advantage of two things in the third quarter. First, the Knicks with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter, was over the limit for fouling. This is where Mike Woodson should have instructed the Knicks to start hacking DeAndre Jordan (career 42.3 FT%) and Blake Griffin (career 62.1 FT%) every chance they get. This was a golden opportunity to play the statistical odds that they would miss free throws, and give the Knicks extra possessions. At 3:19 Chris Paul left the game and never returned with a right hamstring strain. Even with the absence of the Clippers’ best player, the Knicks could not mount a comeback, instead Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford led a 9-0 run to blow open the fourth quarter, pushing up the Clippers’ lead to 83-70 with 7:56 left in the game. The Knicks would only trade baskets the rest of the way as they loss their seventh straight game with a final score of Clippers 93 to Knicks 80.