L.A. Clippers at New York Knicks
Madison Square Garden
February 10, 2013
10:00 a.m. PST
As I can surely attest to, it’s snowing pretty badly in New York City. Seriously, really badly. Even the pizza places are closed. The pizza places! The Clippers might be too weather shocked even to show up in the Big Apple. But if they do, they’ll have a game against the three-point thirsty Knicks, who have been playing well since the return of starting point guard Ray Felton. Onto 3-on-3:
1. Can the Clippers stop the Knicks’ three-point shooting?
Jared Dubin, Hardwood Paroxysm/HoopChalk, (@JADubin5): Probably not. The Knicks are the most prolific three-point shooting team in the NBA, taking and making the most threes in the history of the league despite playing at a pretty slow pace. They also connect on over 38 percent of those tries, the fifth-best mark in the league. The Clippers, on the other hand, struggle to defend the three. Their opponents shoot 37.7 percent from beyond the arc, the fifth-worst mark in the league. Between Carmelo, Kidd, J.R. Smith, Novak, and even Felton and Shumpert (each shooting surprisingly well from deep given their career profiles), there are just too many outside threats for the Clippers to shut them all down, especially given the relatively small stature of their guards and the struggles their power forwards figure to have guarding Anthony on the perimeter. The Knicks have become experts at making the extra pass to find an open shooter, and unless they get mired in a stretch of hero ball, that should continue.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): No. Not only do the Knicks take and make the most three pointers, but they also rank fifth best percentage-wise. The Clippers are 25th in defending the three, and give up the seventh-most per game. That’s a recipe for disaster, which is why I don’t like this matchup for the Clippers very much. Another three-point barrage and this is ugly.
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): Yes. If the Clippers can effectively deny the initial penetration, backline defenders won’t be forced to help on the drive, allowing the weakside perimeter defenders to stay in position (as opposed to rotating). At the very least, this requires above average on-ball defense against Carmelo Anthony.
2. Who deserves to be higher in the MVP vote right now: Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul?
Dubin: It’s definitely Paul for now, but if he misses any more games (he’s missed nearly 1/4 of the season so far), you might have to move Melo in front of him. Either way, it’s a two-man race between LeBron and Durant. These guys are just jostling for third place.
Buha: Anyone who answers Carmelo Anthony is out of his or her mind (well, unless it’s a diehard Knicks fan, but still). Paul isn’t in the lauded class of LeBron/Durant, but if they’re 1A and 1B, he’s number 2 and by himself in that distinction. I know he’s missed 12 games, but he’s just more efficient than Anthony and has never had his defense or effort called into question.
Shagrin: Chris Paul. His relatively short absence strengthens his candidacy. The Clippers have been .500 without Paul and with him they had the best record in basketball. It seems only Paul has the key to discerning the Clippers’ labyrinth of talent.
3. J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford are numbers one and two in the NBA in scoring off the bench. Who’s having the better season?
Dubin: I’ll give the egde to J.R. because of his commitment to rebounding and defense. Each player is a relatively inefficient scorer that anchors a bench unit light on other scoring options, but JR actually contributes in other areas, whereas Crawford is basically out there to fill the net and that’s about it. The Clips go to comical lengths to hide Crawford on D, while Smith often guards the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer when he’s on the court. I’d be more inclined to go with Crawford if I didn’t think Matt Barnes was equally or more important to what the Clipper bench is able to do. The strength of that unit is their elite defense, and Barnes is the lynchpin.
Buha: Jamal Crawford. Despite a similar number of shot attempts for both, Crawford’s shooting the ball better (which says a lot), scoring more, and gets to the free throw line more. Smith is the better rebounder and defender, but for as good as he’s been this season, the Clippers need Crawford more than the Knicks need Smith.
Shagrin: J.R. Smith, but that’s because I have to watch Jamal Crawford three times a week. I’d imagine Knicks fans get equally frustrated with Smith’s shot selection, but he’s far more likely to redeem himself on the defensive end than Crawford.