How thin are the Clippers these days?  Josh Powell - who is cultivating bona fides as a serviceable 15-20 MPG power forward in the league - is starting against Eddy Curry.  Curry is no world-beater, but Powell gives up two inches and about 75 pounds to him on the low block.  But Powell answers on the offensive end tonight.  Final game stats:  

Powell: 27.1 P/48 in 23 minutes
Curry:  30.4 P/48 in 30 minutes

More important, Powell stays out of foul trouble.  His contribution spells Tim Thomas' exit and allows Mike Dunleavy to ease Chris Kaman back into the lineup [though with Tim Thomas' departure early on, Kaman ends up playing 35 minutes].  

  • With 3:56 to go, the Knicks cut the Clippers' lead to two points - a lead the Clips have maintained since the closing minutes of the third period. But now they're having trouble scoring from the field. Per usual, the ball doesn't cross the arc until there are :10 remaining on the shot clock. At that point, Cuttino Mobley dumps it into Josh Powell at the top of the key. Zach Randolph gets up into Powell's space and Powell throws it into traffic en route to Kaman off the right post. It's a lousy pass, but Kaman manages to control the tip off David Lee's outstretched hand. With Renaldo Balkman playing him tight, Kaman backs in toward the hoop. And here's where Kaman has really grown up: The double-team is in the mail; Lee is coming over to trap Kaman against the baseline and Randolph has also scooted down low. Kaman recognizes this and kicks the ball back to Powell, who is all alone at the foul line. With the :24-second clock expiring, Powell sinks a silky 15-footer. Clippers by 4.

  • On the other end, Jamal Crawford finally misses a shot. Kaman grabs the rebound, and with 3:05 remaining in the game, Sam Cassell brings it across. The Clips still need a basket to fully stunt New York's momentum. Sam gets a high screen from Kaman, but Crawford and Fred Jones pick it up nicely. [Problem for the Knicks at the outset: why is Jones picking up Kaman here?] Sam sends the rock to Quinton Ross out on the right wing, but Q is being defended by David Lee. But with Lee out on the perimeter, this leaves only Randolph and Balkman as the Knicks' weak-side defenders. And Kaman has just dived. Once Randolph rotates over, only Balkman remains to cover both Mobley on the perimeter and Powell on the left block. Balkman has to hedge, so Powell dives and finds open space just beneath the basket. Powell up for the layup. Clippers by 6.

Ah, the power of the 15-foot jump shot and ability to recognize when you're the remainder on the opponent's defensive rotation.  Add that to eight rebounds [four offensive] in 24 minutes and you've got yourself a guy who can contribute.  I'm half-hoping that Tim Thomas needs a few games off, because I'd like to see Powell get a little more time at the 4 - though not at the outright expense of Al Thornton...who should be playing the 3 anyhow.  

There's been a lot of piling on over the past few seasons, so I offer nothing original when I say that the incompetence of the New York Knicks is staggering.  How can a professional basketball team get so crossed-up defensively against a squad as deliberate and plodding in the halfcourt as the undermanned Clippers?  I'm one of those people who believes that the NBA is better when franchises like the Knicks, Boston, the Sixers, and Detroit are competitive.  But  watching the Knicks - unlike, say, the Sixers - diminishes any compassion I have.  They're just too bad to earn my empathy.   At least the Clips can play a little defense.