CP3 exits with hamstring injury; Clips still beat reeling Knicks
LOS ANGELES (AP)
The Los Angeles Clippers' defense and the Knicks' general ineptitude both played a role in the unsurprising finish to a meeting of two teams headed in opposite directions.
Blake Griffin had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Chris Paul had 15 points and seven assists before leaving with a strained right hamstring in the Clippers' 93-80 victory over the plummeting Knicks on Wednesday night.
J.J. Redick also scored 15 points as the Clippers comfortably finished their eighth win in 10 games despite losing their superstar point guard late in the third quarter when Paul hobbled to the locker room favoring his right leg. Paul said he could have returned, but was grateful to watch his teammates' strong defensive finish.
''It's definitely a sign that things are going in the right direction,'' said Paul, who seems certain he'll play Friday in Sacramento. ''We're solid. We're starting to know where each other are going to be on both ends of the court. We have to do it consistently, especially on the defensive end, but we're getting there.''
While Paul rode a stationary bike in the dressing room, Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford capably handled playmaking duties while the Clippers finished off their third straight win. The offense-challenged Knicks couldn't score for a 3:40 stretch late, losing handily despite holding the Clippers to three points in the final 4:49.
''We're not going to win too many games on the offensive end, even as well as we're playing,'' said Collison, who had nine points. ''Defense is where it's at, and we did a good job tonight.''
Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points and Andrea Bargnani had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who have lost seven straight to drop to 3-11. New York kept its locker room closed long after the final buzzer for an informal team meeting.
''We are in a dark place, and we've got to get out of it,'' Anthony said. ''We have to pinpoint what the problems are and go from there. . . . We've got to play four quarters together, and we've got to do it for one another. Right now the game is not fun for nobody. We're just not making it happen. But we're going to keep trying.''
New York hung with the powerful Clippers for most of the night, but its shortcomings were exposed late. The Knicks missed 17 of their 20 3-point shots, and the Clippers shot 31 free throws to their 15.
Raymond Felton had 12 points and seven assists in his return to the Knicks' starting lineup after a four-game absence with an injured lower back and left hip, but New York still hasn't won since Nov. 13 in Atlanta.
''I wasn't 100 percent, (but) there's no excuses. No need to talk about that,'' Felton said. ''We got down double digits, and it's hard to bounce back against a team like that, especially in the fourth. Everything was disappointing, man. We played better basketball, but it still wasn't enough. We've got to figure this thing out.''
Crawford scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter for the Clippers, who keep stacking up victories while integrating their new additions, including Redick, who hit three 3-pointers. Los Angeles improved to 8-1 at Staples Center.
The Clippers made an early 30-10 run largely sparked by their reserves, who had 20 points in the first half. The Knicks scored 13 straight points late in the half, but Los Angeles led 49-45 at halftime with scoring from 10 players.
Anthony, the NBA's second-leading scorer, and Bargnani kept the Knicks in it, scoring 35 of their 45 points. The much-criticized Bargnani had 16 points and seven rebounds.
J.R. Smith's basket trimmed the Clippers' lead to 74-70 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but the Clippers scored the next nine points.
''I don't think we ever established the pace the way we wanted to,'' Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. ''Those nights when you can't score the way you're used to scoring, and win games when you can lean on your defense . . . that's just terrific.''
NOTES: The Knicks will attempt to avoid their first eight-game skid since February 2010 when they wrap up their four-game road trip at Denver on Friday night. . . . Metta World Peace got an indifferent reaction in his first appearance at Staples Center since the Lakers released him under the NBA's amnesty provision last summer. World Peace, who won a title with the Lakers in 2010, went scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting, including four missed 3-point attempts. . . . World Peace and Clippers F Antawn Jamison guarded each other at times in the second half. They were teammates last season with the Lakers. Jamison had six points in his second straight appearance for the Clippers after sitting out their first 14 games.