The Knicks insist they’re not in the trading game, but maybe some sort of shakeup is needed following yesterday’s 102-88 matinee loss to the Clippers.
Los Angeles was playing an early tip-off — which west coast teams notoriously have troubling playing — had travel difficulties due to the nor’easter that pounded the northeast corridor and were playing only their fourth game with their entire roster intact. Even starting forward Caron Butler caught the injury bug when he was getting treatment in the locker room during halftime and didn’t come out to play again. Butler was replaced by Matt Barnes, who shot a disastrous 1-of-8 in 19 minutes of action.
Yet, there were the Knicks struggling with an undermanned Clippers’ team that had every reason to fold. Los Angeles had no answer for Carmelo Anthony, as he had a game-high 42 points (18 in the third quarter) to singlehandedly keep his team in the game, making for his fifth 40-point scoring game of the season. But Anthony’s performance was about as good as it would get for the Knicks.
Amongst the lowlights for New York included a bench that gave them next to nothing (Amar’e Stoudemire had nine points, while J.R. Smith had six on 1-of-9 shooting). Shumpert didn’t provide his usual energy, scoring just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in 20 minutes of action. Clippers’ sixth man — and former Knicks’ guard — Jamal Crawford personally outscored his bench counterparts with a team-high 27 points and the Clippers shot a blistering 51.2 percent from the field.
Knicks center Tyson Chandler showed his frustration afterward when recalling the box sheet, as other than Anthony, only Raymond Felton notched double-digits in scoring with 20.
“Yeah, [Anthony] was amazing again, and you have to keep feeding him the ball when he’s going like that,” said Chandler, “but you also have to find a way to get others involved and get shots as well.”
The Clippers got others involved, as four players reached double figures. Chris Paul was brilliant throughout as he notched 25 points, six rebounds, and seven assists.
Even Stoudemire, who’s never been known as a defensive stopper, lamented the team’s effort in deterring the Clippers’ main scorers.
“Teams are definitely looking at us and will continue to test us,” Stoudemire said of the pick-and-roll. “It’s up to us to figure out a way to improve in that area and get back to our principles.”
Despite the aforementioned shortcomings, the Knicks were within striking distance before wilting down the stretch. The microcosm of the Knicks’ uneven afternoon came as they were chipping away at a late deficit, cutting the margin to just six points with 2:48 remaining. Head coach Mike Woodson, however, pulled Chandler from the game and never played him again. The Clippers went on a 10-0 run to salt away the comeback attempt.
Chandler wasn’t a dominant scorer, but his presence kept the Clippers’ defense honest, especially on the pick-and-roll with Felton. Chandler did impose his will in the paint, though, as he had 11 rebounds, and was the only Knicks player to be on the positive side of the plus-minus margin at plus-9. And while he only had six points (3-of-3 shooting), it was the mere threat of Chandler rolling to the rim for an easy dunk or layup that made Paul and Co. hesitant to leave him open, thus allowing Felton to knock down wide-open jumpers.
“That’s one of the best teams in the West, so we know where we stand,” acknowledged Woodson. “We know we just have to get better, without a doubt.”
Woodson lamented the collective effort, but stopped short of saying there needs to be changes made.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.