It took three quarters and 38 points, but the Los Angeles Clippers finally figured out how to stop Carmelo Anthony on Sunday.
Using a combination of ball denials from Grant Hill and traps on pick-and-rolls, Los Angeles limited Anthony to just two shots and four points in the fourth.
"They just made some adjustments, just getting the ball out of my hands and making somebody else make plays to try to win the game," Anthony said.
That "somebody" never showed up for the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon.
The Knicks not named Anthony combined for 14 points in the fourth as the Clippers outscored New York, 31-18, in the final 12 minutes of their 102-88 win at MSG.
You can make an argument that the Knicks' defense was at fault down the stretch. (The Clippers made 12 of 21 shots in the fourth, including 8-of-9 in the paint.) Or you can downplay what happened Sunday afternoon as just one mid-February loss for a team days away from the All-Star break.
But if the Knicks are going to go where they say they want to go this season -- and that means playing basketball deep into June -- they'll need players other than Anthony to score in crunch time.
"He played off the charts," Iman Shumpert said of Anthony's 42-point effort against the Clippers. "We've got to make sure we chip in and do the right thing as far as making the open shots that we're given when he attracts double teams or Amar'e [Stoudemire] attracts double teams. We've got to make sure when we get those shots we knock them down."
The opportunities were there for the Knicks in the fourth. But outside of Raymond Felton (eight points, 4-for-6 shooting) and -- to a lesser extent -- Amar'e Stoudemire (five points in 7:17), their secondary scorers couldn't capitalize.
"We just didn't finish the game the right way," Chandler said.
It didn't help that Anthony was on the bench for the first two minutes of the fourth.
Mike Woodson blamed himself for sitting Anthony to open the fourth as the Knicks fell behind by five.
But Anthony didn't fault his coach for any of New York's shortcomings on Sunday.
"There’s four other guys out there on the basketball court. We’ve just got to make plays," he said. "We’ve been doing that all season long. Today we didn’t make plays in the fourth quarter and we didn’t win the game. So it’s go on to the next game [against Toronto on Wednesday] we make that adjustment and go on to the break."
It'll be interesting to see if teams copy the Clippers' approach against Anthony in the fourth.
After watching him score 38 points in the first three quarters, Los Angeles trapped Anthony on pick-and-rolls and asked Grant Hill to face guard him for stretches in the fourth. Anthony said the Clips' defense made it difficult for him to catch the ball in his sweet spots. After taking 24 of his team's 60 shots in the first three quarters, the Clippers limited him to just two of his team's 14 in the final period.
"Sometimes the ball seemed like it was slowed down because we were trying to get it to him. He’s hot, you’ve still got to try to feed him," Felton said. "But they were double-teaming and triple-teaming him."
It wasn't the first time that's happened, and it won't be the last. The Knicks have handled it well earlier in the season (their first win in San Antonio comes to mind), but it didn't work out on Sunday.
That's something they'll need to address going forward.
"I think we've got to clean up as we go along," Mike Woodson said. "We've got to get better. Without a doubt."
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