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LOS ANGELES -- Vinny Del Negro laughed when he was asked before the game how his Los Angeles Clippers would play against a New York Knicks team playing without Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.
“Hopefully well,” he deadpanned.
The problem is the Clippers didn’t play like that through the first half, allowing the Knicks to hang around. The Clippers even fell behind by eight points. The Clippers got it together in the second half and beat the Knicks 93-80 to increase their lead over the Grizzlies and Nuggets to a full game.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
The Clippers go as Chris Paul goes, and on Sunday, both sides of that equation were on display. Paul didn’t come out as aggressively as Del Negro would have hoped in the first half. The Clippers started the game lackadaisically, and Paul was never able to shake his team out of its funk. That all changed in the second half as the Clippers opened up a 19-point lead on the Knicks. Paul had seven points and four assists in the third quarter alone and finished with 20 points and eight assists for the game. It was far from his best game of the season, but it was exactly what the Clippers needed from him.
That’s their DJ
Del Negro is never quite sure what he’s going to get from DeAndre Jordan. Some nights, he’s a defensive force; other nights he looks lost on defensive assignments. Some nights, he can put up a double-double without breaking a sweat; other nights, he can be a complete nonfactor. The Clippers got a little bit of both on Sunday as Jordan had eight points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes. All of his points and all but three of his rebounds, however, came in the first half. Jordan, as has been the case much of this season, didn’t even see the floor in the fourth quarter. Jordan often shows flashes of the player he can be, as he did in the first half, but far too often the Clippers get the player they saw in the second half, which forces them to rely on bench players like Lamar Odom and Ryan Hollins to pick up the slack.
This is the one area the Clippers have talked about improving since November, and it’s the one area where they haven’t improved in one bit since that time. The Clippers came into the game knowing the Knicks love shooting 3-pointers, and they still allowed them to hit 46.2 percent of their attempts (12 of 26) with many going completely uncontested. The Knicks were actually shooting over 50 percent midway through the fourth quarter as they were able to cut the Clippers’ lead down to 10. If the Clippers had been able to defend the perimeter even decently, they would have been able to rest their starters the entire fourth quarter. As it was, the Knicks were able to get back into the game and force Del Negro to put Paul and Blake Griffin back into the game.