Knicks May Be Losing Their Grip On Playoffs As Clippers Beat Them At Home

Published on: 10th February, 2011


Knicks May Be Losing Their Grip On Playoffs As Clippers Beat Them At Home  | read this item

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New York – What started out for the Knicks and their fans as a season of very high hopes and reasonably high expectations for a winning season and a playoff berth has suddenly turned tense and unsure of either of those hopes being met.

In a continuing pattern over most of the past three weeks of poor starts, double-digit deficits, and non-existent defense, the Knicks got beat tonight at home by the Los Angeles Clippers, 116-108 to drop their season record to 26-25. With the Lakers coming into this building on Friday, there is a very good chance that New York fans will once again be cheering for a team with a .500 record, holding a scant two and a half game lead ahead of the eighth place Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Knicks coach, Mike D’Antoni usually doesn’t rip his team’s heart or effort, certainly not in public, but after tonight’s game, he couldn’t control his anger.

“The problem tonight was not the Clippers; it was the Knicks,” he said. “The effort was just not good enough. There are times when you play bad or the ball does not go in….or there are times when you lay an egg, but it should never be because you do not have the necessary heart or desire. It was a total lack of commitment on our part. We needed to beat a young, talented team and it just did not happen.”

He wasn’t done criticizing his own players.

“We just did not come out to play in the first half,” he said. “You could see it on their faces. It was the energy level mostly on the defensive end. You think you right ship a little bit and then you come out blah. Sometimes we just want to win the game without having to go full out and sometimes that is too late.”

As if he needed to crystallize how little he thought of the Knicks effort, D’Antoni brought up his new poster child for effort and desire. We give you, Timofey Mozgov.

“He is playing well, but playing hard is a talent and Mozgov has that,” said D’Antoni, putting another dagger into his teams’ heart (or lack thereof). “As I said, playing hard is a talent.”

You get the sense he was repeating himself in the hope his players would read these comments in tomorrow’s account on the web and in the papers.

The Knicks had cut a 20-point lead to three in the last quarter but Randy Foye, the former Villanova Wildcat, took over at the eight minute mark and put it out of reach with a brilliant 17-point fourth quarter.

Knicks cut the lead to four with two and a half minutes left before Foye hit a big three to push the lead back to seven.

Baron Davis had 16 points and a season-high 16 assists for the Clippers, who had dropped four straight overall, including the first three on their eight-game, 14-day trip.

Another sold-out Garden crowd was here to see the new NBA wonderkind, Blake Griffin, who has been magical in this, his rookie season. Griffin, initially drafted in June 2009 had missed his entire first year after fracturing his kneecap prior to the 09-10 season but thus far, he’s averaging  23 points and nearly 14 rebounds per game, near the top of the league in both categories. He has turned this sad, moribund Clippers franchise into a more than respectable team.

“It was a huge win for us,” said Griffin. “We started 0-3 and we wanted to get a win especially against a team like New York. It was cool playing in the Garden. The energy is always exciting here. I think the atmosphere now, especially with the Knicks doing well is unbelievable.”

Glad the rookie had a terrific adventure on his trip to MSG.

Tonight, the Clippers didn’t need to rely on Griffin (21 points, 6 rebounds) as much as usual as they had a balanced scoring attack with Ryan Gomes scoring 18 points, DeAndre Jordan 17 and Eric Bledsoe had 16. But, the biggest player tonight for the Clips was Foye, who scored 17 of his game high 24 points in the fourth quarter.

Amare Stoudemire scored 23 points for the Knicks, but foul trouble forced to him to his seat for long stretches in the first three quarters. Danilo Gallinari had 21 and Timofey Mozgov had 18 on 8-of-9 shooting but was forced to the bench when the Knicks went with a small lineup in an effort to get back in the game.

Toney Douglas scored seven straight New York points to cut it to 99-94 with 6:04 to play, and Stoudemire’s dunk made it a three-point game. It was still three when Foye nailed a 3-pointer with 3:47 to go, and he then answered scores by Stoudemire with a jumper, then another 3-pointer to make it 109-102 with 2:43 remaining. Foye then found Jordan, who was fouled and hit one free throw, and threw a lob that Griffin slammed down to put it away at 112-102 with 1:36 left.

The Knicks have now lost 10 of the last 14 games and no matter how you slice it, this is a ship that has been sinking for several weeks. Is this the real Knicks we’re seeing now, as the season reaches it’s grinding-out of games period, here in February?

Raymond Felton may have said it best.

“We are playing for the playoffs,” he said. “That is what the second half of the season is for. We are fighting to keep our position in the East so every night we are fighting for something and that is how we must come out every night.”

D’Antoni couldn’t have said it better, himself.

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