The losing streak has reached four games. The Knicks dropped the fourth game of their West Coast trip to the Los Angeles Clippers by a score of 93-80. Chris Paul was the game’s leading scorer with 20 points while passing off for eight assists. Blake Griffin registered a double-double for the Clippers with 12 points and 12 rebounds while DeAndre Jordan just missed out on a double-double of his own with eight points and 10 rebounds. The Knicks, playing without both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, were led by J.R. Smith’s 17 points off the bench.
Just as they did this past Thursday night against the Portland TrailBlazers, the Knicks actually got off to a nice start this afternoon. The Knicks jumped out to an 8-1 lead thanks to an Iman Shumpert jumper to begin the game’s scoring and a couple of three-pointers from Chris Copeland and Raymond Felton. They would eventually stretch their lead to eight (13-5) as the combination of Copeland and Felton scored on two more baskets, looking as if each would have a big game to help the Knicks sneak out of Los Angeles with a win. Unfortunately, the good early vibes would disappear very quickly. An 11-2 Clippers run gave them their first lead of the game at 16-15. The Knicks would quickly grab the lead again on a Kenyon Martin layup but it would be their last lead of the game. A 5-1 spurt from the Clippers to end the first quarter gave L.A. back the lead and they wouldn’t relinquish it the rest of the way.
Even without their top three players and having already been blown-out in each of their first three games of the road trip, the Knicks fought hard in this game, at least in the first half. After Smith scored the first two points of the second quarter, the Clippers scored four straight on a Chauncey Billups jumper and Lamar Odom layup to extend their lead to five, 25-20. However, the Clippers had trouble extending that lead and the Knicks would eventually tie up the score at 31 on a Smith dunk attempt. Only problem was that was as close as the Knicks would get to the Clippers the rest of the game. A 13-6 Clippers run, powered by 11 combined points by Paul and former-Knicks Jamal Crawford helped L.A. take a 44-37 lead into halftime.
The Knicks opened the second half trying to fight their way back into the game, scoring the first four points on jumpers from Copeland and Shumpert to cut their seven-point deficit to three. Then the Clippers finally starting displaying the talent gap between them and the injury filled Knicks, going on an 11-1 run to push their lead to 13 highlighted by a textbook Paul to Griffin alley-oop. The Knicks quieted the storm a bit, even as the Clippers extended the lead to 16. With the score 60-47, Jason Kidd found his stroke, hitting on three straight from beyond the arc to help the Knicks get to within 12, 65-53. However, a 7-0 run from the Clippers pushed their lead to biggest Knicks deficit of the night at 19. The Knicks responded with a 7-0 run of their own, sparked by five Smith points, to end the third quarter down 72-60.
The Clippers tried ending the game early in the final period, opening the quarter with another 7-0 run to again push their lead to 19. The Knicks however did not go quietly, going on one last 14-5 run to cut their deficit to 10, 84-74. The run was just too late, even as they eventually cut it to single digits at 89-80 with 1:56 left in the game. The Knicks would not score again and the Clippers earned their second win against the Knicks this season, 93-80.
- Despite leading the Knicks with 17 points, Smith had a terrible shooting game, going 4-for-20 from the floor. Smith has shot 23-for-64 during the road trip (36%).
- Steve Novak finally broke out of his 0-for-12 slump, connecting on all three of his trey attempts.
- The starting PF/C combo of Kurt Thomas and Kenyon Martin couldn’t stay on the court consistently, as the two picked up nine fouls in their 45 combined minutes of play. Martin did manage to haul in nine rebounds in his 28 minutes.
- Felton had a nice box score line (16 points, nine assists) but the load of his scoring came early when the Knicks built their 13-5 lead and late when the game was already decided.
- The Knicks will try to salvage the final game of their road trip tomorrow night against the last team they earned a win against: the Utah Jazz. The Knicks could enter the game tied atop the Atlantic Division, if the Brooklyn Nets can earn a win against the Atlanta Hawks tonight.
Well, last night really turned out to be a dud in Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver. Anthony left the game about three minutes into the second half when his knee began to “tighten up”, which led to a pretty impressive “WHERE IS MELO” chant by the Pepsi Center crowd. In Denver’s 23 point rout of the Knicks, there was one, tiny bright spot Knick fans can take away from this game.
Iman Shumpert hit the 20-point mark for the first time this season- a sight for sore eyes as Iman has faced an uphill battle all year in his return from an ACL injury. Shump shot 80% from the field, and 4-5 from three point land. Now, lets put this in perspective for the rest of this road trip.
Where do the Knicks turn next, with Anthony back in New York, and Chandler obviously will not be 100% tonight at Portland, who is going to step up? My plea for Copeland, I guess, was somewhat answered when he was inserted in the second quarter and made into a poster by JaVale McGee, but that’s besides the point. Maybe he starts tonight in Melo’s absence, which would insert some fresh young legs into a gassed starting lineup. This team has shown they are able to produce without their two top guns present. Tonight, against a Portland team who is on the fence of a playoff berth, and another draft lottery, New York can grasp their first win on this west coast swing which already feels like it’s more of a permanent vacation after two grueling losses in a row.
Now, it is still possible (and we can all dream, can’t we?) that the Knicks can still finish this road trip above .500 before they head back to the big bad city. Portland will look to double their winning percentage at home tonight on TNT. This will also be the second out of three nationally televised games on this road trip, in where the Knicks have already been blown out in one. I don’t want to call anything too early, but I think the Knicks have hit rock bottom on this trip, if not, the entire season. New York has been outscored 209-157 so far on the west coast, and a loss tonight would drop the Knicks to 20-20 in their last 40.
So, what we are looking at right now is a few unsung Knicks stepping up on a team full of disarray. If I’m Mike Woodson, I am going balls to the wall and making a dramatic change tonight. Insert Copeland and Kenyon Martin into the starting lineup and be ready to throw JR Smith in there as soon as the going gets rough. Scoring has the chance of being scarce, although this team seems to pull together in times of need, as we saw against Utah. If Shumpert can replicate his success from last night, and Smith plays well, the light at the end of the tunnel will still be shining heading into Los Angeles in a bit of a revenge game against the Clippers.
At this point, just get through these next three games and head back home. Indiana took a one game lead for second place last night with the Knicks loss, and New York fell to a game and a half within Brooklyn to losing the division lead. Let’s see if New York can get the thing moving in the right direction again, starting tonight. Stay tuned, Knicks fans.
Earlier we highlighted the top 10 restricted free agents in the NBA this summer. Here are our top 10 unrestricted players.
1. Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets: The star of this summer’s free agency. One of the league’s top five point guards. William’s situation is simple: He will either resign with the Nets or go play in his hometown of Dallas with the Mavs.