The Clippers have won 10 straight over the New York Knicks dating back to Feb. 10, 2013, their longest active win streak against an opponent and their longest win streak against New York in team history. Here are five things we learned from their 114-105 victory over the Knicks at Staples Center on Monday night:
1. As important as Blake Griffin’s 30 points and Chris Paul’s 13 points and 13 assists were to the Clippers on Monday, there were five sets of identical numbers in the box score that could be very important to them Tuesday night, when the Clippers play the Lakers in the second game of a back-to-back.
It was the 0:00 under fourth-quarter minutes played for all five Clippers starters — Griffin, Paul, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Luc Mbah a Moute — a luxury afforded by the 25-point lead the Clippers built in the third period.
“It’s really important,” Coach Doc Rivers said. The Lakers are “sitting at home, resting, they’ll be ready. It’s also nice that we don’t have to travel. When you have a back-to-back and the second game is a road game and you wake up at home, that’s not all bad.”
2. Rivers said after the game that “it’s too early to make a comment” on the memo sent to teams by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Monday, “because I haven’t read it yet.” But Rivers knew enough about the gist of the memo to comment on it.
Silver called the practice of resting marquee players “an extremely significant issue for our league” and warned of “significant penalties” for teams that don’t abide by the league’s rules for providing “notice to the league office, their opponent and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest.”
The memo was sparked, in part, by Cleveland’s late announcement that stars LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would not play in Saturday night’s game against the Clippers, who won, 108-78.
“At the end of the day, I think each team is gonna do what they need to do for the good of their team,” Rivers said. “Obviously, it’s not a great situation for the paying customer, but it’s something to figure out. It’s not a league of perfect yet. We’re gonna keep working on it to make it perfect.”
3. The Clippers blew the game open with an 11-0 run in the span of 1 minute, 14 seconds in the third quarter, turning a 69-57 lead into an 80-57 advantage. Griffin opened the barrage with a three-pointer from the left corner, Luc Mbah a Moute converted a turnover into a fast-break basket, and Paul hit two three-pointers.
But the most impressive play of the surge may have come on the defensive end when Griffin forcefully rejected a Willy Hernangomez dunk attempt, a play Rivers described as “spectacular.” Griffin was just glad to return a favor to Jordan, the extremely active 6-foot-11 center and rim protector known for his help defense.
“I can’t remember exactly who rotated or who helped,” Griffin said, “but when we’re playing like that, it’s nice because D.J. is always doing that for us, so once every 20 games, I try to do that, too.”
4. The Clippers (42-29) moved to within a game of Utah for the fourth seed — and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs — in the Western Conference, and they built a 1 1/2-game cushion over sixth-seeded Oklahoma City with 11 games remaining.
Although Rivers and Paul downplayed the importance of home-court advantage in the first round, Griffin did not.
“It’s definitely important, even if it’s just one round,” Griffin said. “We always think back to the Spurs series a few years ago. When it came down to the end of the regular season, the two through six seeds were all up in the air, and it came down to the last game.
“In that [Spurs] series, we ended up having a Game 7 at home, and if we had won one more game [in the regular season], we would have had a Game 7 at home against the Rockets [in the next round]. So those things make a huge difference.”
5. Paul’s play has been choppy of late, which is unusual for one of the NBA’s best and most consistent point guards.
After back-to-back games of 30 and 33 points against Philadelphia on March 11 and at Utah on March 13, Paul scored six points on two-for-10 shooting against Milwaukee last Wednesday, 18 points on eight-for-12 shooting at Denver last Thursday and five points on 0-for-8 shooting against Cleveland on Saturday.
Against the Knicks, Paul, who missed 14 games from Jan. 19 to Feb. 23 because of a torn left thumb ligament, had 13 points on five-of-11 shooting, 13 assists and no turnovers in 28 1/2 minutes.
“I thought the rhythm came back tonight, you can see it,” Rivers said. “The thing about this guy is he’s never really worried about it because he can do so many things. When his shot is going in, he’s great; when it’s not going in, he’s great, because he has enough talent to do other things, and that’s really important.”