|Griffin, terrified of Chandler. Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler|
To further explain that, the Knicks were on the verge of romping the Clippers in blowout fashion, until in the 3rd quarter, Mike Woodson undoubtedly received the news that the Orlando Magic locked up the sixth seed by beating the Charlotte Bobcats. Gradually, Woodson pulled Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Baron Davis, and Iman Shumpert, and threw out a lineup of Mike Bibby, Landry Fields, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, and Dan Gadzuric (!). At this point, the Clippers (who needed a win tonight to secure homecourt in the playoffs) decided to make one last run. When they cut it too close, the Knicks decided to play spoilers and Woodson re-inserted Shumpert and Chandler to help close out the game.
The Knicks struggled to defend early on and looked sluggish from their two days rest. However, Carmelo Anthony and Baron Davis seemed to give the Knicks the boost they needed by pushing the ball up the court and attacking the basket. Melo got his points mostly in isolation as he burned Caron Butler to the basket, or drained jumpers in his face, undaunted by any defense.
The bench unit, however, gave the Knicks the real spark they needed to push the lead. Novak and Smith both entered the game and promptly snapped the nets off jumpers, while Fields attacked the basket and had a flurry of drives, dunks, and lay-ups in the 2nd quarter. This lineup also succeeded by causing havoc in the passing lanes and forcing the Clippers into 14 first-half turnovers.
A few times, the Clippers got within a basket or two - Randy Foye was torching the Knicks from downtown - but each time the Knicks would go on a mini-run to give themselves a comfortable cushion.
The regular season wraps up tomorrow when the Knicks play (an oddly national televised game) in Charlotte. If they win, they'll lock up the seventh seed. If they lose and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night, then the Knicks will get the eighth seed. So, to tank, or not to tank?