The Knicks did what they have usually done on this West Coast road trip — show some fight for the first half of the game, only to wilt in the second half. Sunday afternoon wasn’t any different as they fell to the Clippers, 93-80.
Despite missing the services of Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks (38-26) maintained some sort of competitiveness — for the first 24 minutes — as they actually played the Clippers (46-21) close, trailing by just seven points.
Jason Kidd’s jump shot had a bit of a revival in the third quarter, knocking down three 3-pointers, as the Knicks tried to stay within striking distance, but a 13-0 Clippers run was too much to overcome. Kidd finished with 11 points, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc. Chris Copeland, 13 points, and J.R. Smith, 17 points, were the only other offensive threats for the Knicks, as they shot a paltry 35.8 percent from the floor. About the only other factors that allowed the Knicks to stay relatively competitive were the 3-point shot (46.2 percent) and winning the turnover battle, 12-9.
Smith was a paradox as usual, in that he did enough to keep the Knicks within reach in the opening half, scoring 11 points, but his poor shot selection and shooting percentage (4-of-20) also allowed the Clippers to ignite fastbreaks off long rebounds and capitalize on his mistakes. Smith should be commended for having a career season (career highs of 16.7 points in 33.2 minutes per game) and thriving whenever Anthony has been out of the lineup, but New York still needs him to be more judicious if they’re going to weather Anthony’s extended absence.
As much fight as the Knicks had, though, the Clippers simply had too many options on the offensive end. Only a few garbage-time buckets by the Knicks kept the final score closer than it actually was. When it came down to shutting down the Knicks’ offense when they had to, they’d simply take the ball out of their playmakers’ hands and make the secondary guys beat them. They couldn’t, and the Clippers sent the Knicks to their fourth-straight loss.
What we learned ...
1. Deeper than the Pacific Ocean
On paper, and when healthy, these are two of the deepest teams in the league. But Sunday showed what happens when one team is stacked with youthful depth, while the other is banking on 30-somethings. The Clippers, like the Knicks, have battled injury problems all season, but unlike their New York counterpart, they have enough young legs to get them through the difficult times. Los Angeles is particularly strong in their starting five, as all but center DeAndre Jordan (eight points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) reached double figures scoring, while New York only had two starters score more than 10 points.
2. They’re going streaking
Sunday marked the fourth-straight loss for a Knicks’ squad that is one game away from ending this brutal five-game West Coast road trip with an 0-for. The Knicks began their sojourn with a semicomfortable 2 1/2 game lead over the Nets and a 4 1/2 game lead over the Celtics. They now find themselves in a dogfight down the stretch for the Atlantic Division title — a lead they have had all to themselves since the start of the season. If the Knicks continue this descent, they could conceivably be in jeopardy of losing their division lead and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
3. Shooting guard who can’t shoot
Iman Shumpert is in the midst of a terrible shooting slump since returning to the lineup following his arduous ACL rehab. Shumpert, who entered the game shooting 34 percent in his 26 previous games, went 2-of-6, including 0-of-3 in 3-pointers, for just five points. Sans Anthony, the Knicks certainly need more offensive options. And as of right now, Shumpert has been more liability than contributor on the offensive end.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.