Even without their Big Three, Carmelo Anthony (sore right knee), Tyson Chandler (neck strain) and Amar'e Stoudemire (right knee debridement), the Knicks hung in against the third-best team in the West.
The Knicks' veteran defense down-low, anchored by Kenyon Martin, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby, banged well against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Thomas and Camby had one steal each, and Griffin and Jordan combined for just 12 points, nearly going scoreless in the second quarter.
The Clippers attempted more jump shots, and out of 12 3-point attempts, they only made three. The Knicks, on the other hand, were 5-for-11 from downtown. Even Steve Novak, who had missed each of his last 12 3-point attempts -- the longest streak of his seven-year career -- connected on a long ball.
Here are three more observations at the half:
1. J.R. Smith's key adjustment. After starting off 0-for-5 from the field -- on all jump shots -- he took his game inside. He attacked in transition -- thanks to the Knicks' solid D -- and off pick and rolls, including a dunk off a baseline drive after blowing by Griffin and Chris Paul. Finishing 5-for-6 on free throw attempts was huge, considering the Knicks were without their two best players at getting to the line, Anthony and Stoudemire. Smith scored a team-high 11 points in the first half.
When the Knicks lost big to the Clippers on Feb. 10, Smith was outplayed by his sixth-man counterpart Jamal Crawford. But on Sunday afternoon, Smith was the better bench player. Crawford had seven points, two turnovers and no foul shots.
2. Chris Copeland's hot start. He scored five points early in the first quarter, as the Knicks took an eight-point lead. He converted a 3-pointer and a drive down the middle of the lane against Caron Butler. The Knicks were going to Copeland early and often in the low post to start the game. His deep positioning and an occasional double team led to two 3-pointers by Raymond Felton. Cope had another 3-pointer late in the second period, finishing with eight points in the first half.
3. Containing Paul. The Knicks didn't allow Paul (10 points and four assists) to dominate the first half. Iman Shumpert's defense came in handy early in the game. In fact, the Clippers, one of the best transition teams in the NBA, only had four fast-break points -- the same as the Knicks, who are second-worst in the league. Los Angeles played at a slower pace, opening a big door for the short-handed Knicks to stay in the game.
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