NEW YORK (Reuters) - Injuries had crippled the Los Angeles Clippers of late and when they finally got their full team back on the court, the NBA champion Miami Heat dealt them a 22-point beating on Friday.
On Sunday, however, the Pacific Division leaders started looking more like themselves as the Clippers pulled away in the fourth quarter in a 102-88 road victory over the Atlantic Division-leading New York Knicks to improve to 36-17.
After doing without starters Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Blake Griffin along with sixth man Jamal Crawford for various lengths of injury time, Los Angeles used their impressive depth to bury the Knicks.
All Star forward Griffin acknowledged that it might have taken the Clippers, losers of eight of their previous 11 games, a little time to get reacclimated.
“Maybe a little bit. We hadn’t played all together in a while so it was going to take a little bit of time,” said Griffin, who scored 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting in Sunday’s win.
Afterwards, praise was passed around among a host of Clippers players who contributed to the victory.
All Star point guard Chris Paul, who came back against Miami after missing nine games with a bruised knee cap, scored 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting but singled out the second unit, which turned a one-point lead into a nine-point cushion early in the fourth quarter.
“Our second unit really got it going,” said Paul, who was second on the Clippers’ score sheet to sixth man Crawford, who scored 27 points and ignited the fourth-quarter surge.
”Jamal just hit shot after shot and that’s the Jamal Crawford that we love to see. Me and Chauncey (Billups, who played only four games this season due to foot tendinitis) stand back and he can go back to his natural position, which is score.
“When he doesn’t have to be the point guard, he can be himself, and he’s one of the best in the league.”
Veteran Grant Hill scored only two points in the game, but also was praised for the defensive job he did on New York’s Carmelo Anthony, who had 38 points through three quarters but only four points in the fourth when closely guarded by Hill.
“He is smart. He never rests. He’s always guarding you and messing with you,” Paul said about Hill as a defender.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro summed up the team effort.
”I thought Grant was the difference, in a lot of ways,“ Del Negro said when asked about the forward. ”I thought his defense was very good, boxed out a few times, got us some loose balls.
“Jamal, Chris, Blake, I mean everybody. It was a team effort. Everybody stepped up at some point. Eric Bledsoe had a fantastic game. A good, solid team win for us.”
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes