The Knicks nearly pulled off an upset in LA, but the Clippers regained composure in the second have to down New York in a high-scoring affair.
On Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Clippers (26-12) defeated the New York Knicks (10-26) 135-132 out west. Marcus Morris finished with new career-high 38 points and five rebounds for the Knicks. For Los Angeles, Paul George finished with 32 points, four rebounds, and five made threes. With the loss, the Knicks are now on a two-game losing streak after Friday’s defeat in the desert.
It was a weird game, to say the least. The Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard, leaving them short on both sides of the ball, while the Knicks were without Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr., leaving them with just Frank Ntilikina and recent G League call-up Kadeem Allen as the only lead ball-handlers on the roster.
Kadeem Allen just finds a way to impact the game and I love it pic.twitter.com/TvTJhhJGRt— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 5, 2020
It didn’t matter, as both teams put on a show early. New York’s offense was humming right out of the gate—45 points in the first quarter and 76% shooting from the floor. R.J. Barrett was active early in this one, getting a couple of good looks at the basket, while Bobby Portis knocked down a pair of threes. Things were looking good.
But the Knicks were living on bad shots and once those began to fade, so did the ‘Bockers. Los Angeles turned up the defensive pressure on the Knicks while beginning to space the floor on offense. The Clippers finished with 56.3% shooting from three-point range, with George and three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner Lou Williams benefiting from New York’s poor defense.
George had a monster game, but the Clippers lived off the two-man combination of Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams. Both players came off the bench and combined for 66 points. Harrell was abusing Mitchell Robinson in the post, thanks to an array of offensive moves: whether it was pulling Robinson out the post and driving past him, or just outmuscling him, Harrell was always in control of that matchup.
Lou Williams did a great job of controlling the ball as a secondary ball-handler and shooter. He started with some wide-open threes, and when New York began to key on him, Williams began to attack the basket. Along with his 32 points, Williams also finished with nine assists, mostly dump-offs to Harrell, thanks to bending New York’s defense.
New York actually had a solid fourth-quarter comeback attempt after being down double digits in the third period. Morris had a few good looks, Barrett continued his strong game, and Robinson turned it on defensively. Still, the Clippers were too much down the stretch, giving the Knicks their second loss in as many games.
It was a bad loss, but at least it was a fun loss. Here are some small notes:
- Steve Nash was at the game. I think New York should hire him this offseason to work with the Knicks on free-throw shooting. Another disaster-class game from the line by the Knicks, highlighted by Kadeem Allen missing two free throws he earned on a fouled three and Julius Randle stealing Frank Ntilikina’s technical free throw and missing.
- R.J. Barrett, Nash’s godson, had a good night. He had a night he needed to have after a solid stretch of poor games. 24 points and six rebounds with most of his points coming from attacking the basket and some mid-range work. The best stat? Barrett made nine of his 11 free throw attempts. He’ll need to improve his shooting, but Barrett remaining active is the best Barrett.
RJ Barrett knocks down the 3 and he’s now 4-4 with 10 points. I’m one first quarter bucket away from claiming this as his first 30 point game. pic.twitter.com/8KvPmAOVTu— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 5, 2020
- The Knicks ran this really odd lineup in the second quarter that I liked: Kadeem Allen, Reggie Bullock, Kevin Knox, Bobby Portis, and Julius Randle. Essentially, the Knicks had three guys who can really shoot. In this stretch, the defense wasn’t great, but I liked to see Bullock and Portis use their gravity to get Knox and Randle some looks and vice versa.
- Reggie Bullock: 22 minutes. I like that. Kevin Knox: six minutes. I do not like that. This is why the Knicks need to be a bit more aggressive towards the trade deadline. The constant shuffling of guys makes it tough for a consistent rotation. Knox has looked fine the last 10 games and this would’ve been a nice test to see him play.
- A so-so game from Mitchell Robinson. On one hand, Robinson was FOOD against Montrezl Harrell all game. Robinson didn’t adjust well to Harrell’s strength at the basket and just struggled whenever Harris put the ball on the floor. The positives were that he didn’t foul out in this case, had some good shot alterations and made 80% of his shots. It’s a game that reminded you that as much as we love Robinson, there are still steps for him to go.
- Want to show some Randle some love, too. It wasn’t his best game, but Randle finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals. He looked a bit lethargic on defense, but I liked his ball movement, especially with the Knicks short a point guard. Hopefully, he can bounce back from three a bit.
The Knicks stay two more days in the City of Angels to take on LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers on Tuesday.