Written by William Lee
New York played their fourth game in five nights, and started an eight game home stand against the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night, there was no rest for the weary. The Knicks returned to the Garden, after being completely outclassed by the league best Indiana Pacer Thursday night. Before the game even began there was bad news, it was announced that Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin would both be sidelined for two weeks with sprained ankle injuries. The Clippers are a surprising 5-1 since star point guard Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury, and came off an improbable victory over the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, winning the game despite being down 17 points with 4: 35 remaining in the game.
The game can be summarized by three Los Angeles Clippers run, where they were able to keep the Knicks from scoring a single field goal close to five minutes in all occasions. The first occurred at the end of the second quarter, when starting point guard Raymond Felton sat down because of foul trouble with 5:18 remaining in the first half. Mike Woodson decided to not play Beno Udrih, a veteran point guard, and went with combo guards. Toure’ Murry did not look comfortable running the offense Friday night, passing the ball too low to Tyson Chandler on consecutive possessions. New York matched their turnovers per game (12.6) by the first half alone with 13 turnovers. Although during the five minute spam of no field goal, the Knicks were still able to score, getting to the line with some generous calls from the referees. New York would not be as fortunate with the referee’s whistle, when this again occurred again in the beginning of the third quarter and towards the end as well. Scoring only on a few free throws during this spam, New York only made four field goals in the third quarter, being held down to 18.2% shooting for the period. The Clippers ended the third quarter on a 15-4 run to take a 76-67 lead.
The game was actually tied up at the half 50-50, with both teams shooting a low percentage. The Clippers were able to generate points by pushing the ball up the court, scoring 23 fast break points in the first half alone. This kept the Clippers in the game despite shooting only 32.6% in the first half. Blake Griffin brought the ball up and went coast to coast a few times after collecting the defensive rebound. Griffin would barely be met with any resistance going to the rim, highlighted by an end to end score where Griffin made a behind back crossover and dunked over Jeremy Tyler. New York jogged back on defense seemly every possession, only once in the first half was Griffin ever fouled hard. O how I miss the good old days of 90s Knicks basketball, where hard fouls was a norm, and no layups were allowed. Too many times be it Griffin or another Clipper sprinted straight to the rim and was met with little to no resistance. Griffin had 15 points in the first half, finishing the game with 32 points 7 rebounds and 3 steals.
Any hope of a New York comeback was completely destroyed when Los Angeles hit three consecutive threes in a row in the fourth quarter. You felt momentum shift when Blake Griffin knocked the first three, who is a career 23.6% three point shooter. Jamal Crawford exploded for 14 points in the fourth quarter to help close the door on New York, creating an inside outside game for the Clippers. Crawford finished the game with 29 points, as the Clippers won easily 109-95.
With the double digit deficit early in the fourth quarter, it is questionable why Mike Woodson did not hack either DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin on purpose, and send them to the line every possession. We have seen throughout the years, all the top coaches implement this strategy, including the current Clipper coach, Doc Rivers do it during his Boston Celtics rein. Jordan is a career 42.1% FT, and Griffin is a career 62.8%, which makes it very appetizing to send either to the free throw line. This was a missed opportunity for New York to gain extra possessions, instead they watched the Clippers rain down five threes in the fourth quarter.
Some positives to look forward to, is that New York will face mostly teams with losing records during their home stand. Jeremy Tyler looked serviceable during his 14 minutes of play Friday night, and probably will see more time with how decimated Knicks frontcourt is. Another positive from the injuries is, it is encouraging to see Carmelo Anthony help rebound. Grabbing 20 rebounds, which was two off tying his career high. This was especially encouraging because Anthony had a terrible shooting night, missing 19 shots, it got so bad, that on a made three, he was signaling thank god that a shot fall down. New York will need divine intervention to even keep afloat and remain respectable for the rest of the season, that is for sure.