LOS ANGELES (AP) — Without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire, the New York Knicks are hardly a team that should present many problems for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Although the Clippers caused a few problems for themselves, they solved them in plenty of time to keep moving toward their franchise's first Pacific Division title.
Chris Paul had 20 points and eight assists, Caron Butler added 14 points, and the Clippers beat the injury-depleted Knicks 93-80 Sunday in a meeting of division leaders.
Blake Griffin had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who shook off a turnover-plagued start and pulled away in the second half of their first home win since February 2009 over New York, silencing the cadre of taunting Knicks fans that invades Staples Center for each visit.
"We want them to be at full throttle with Melo and Tyson just for the competition of it," said Chauncey Billups, who scored 12 points. "When they're not playing, it's just human nature to have a subconscious letdown, but you have to find a way to just scrap through it."
Jamal Crawford scored 12 points for the Clippers, who went up by 19 points in the fourth quarter and comfortably weathered New York's final run to wrap up Los Angeles coach Vinny Del Negro's 200th career victory.
With three days of rest following Wednesday's discouraging home loss to Memphis, the Clippers struggled through an unsightly first half against New York, making 10 turnovers while taking a small lead. Los Angeles finally got rolling in the third quarter, with Griffin throwing down a percussive one-handed dunk on a lob from Paul during a 16-5 Clippers run.
"You want to be playing not just for the seeding, but to be ready going into the playoffs," said Griffin, who had a strong second half in his first game since his 24th birthday. "It's the time when everybody's intensity needs to be turned up, and we need to be dialed in for every single game, no matter who we're playing."
J.R. Smith scored 17 points and Raymond Felton had 16 for the Knicks, who played without All-Stars Anthony and Chandler in their fourth straight double-digit loss on a five-game trip. New York's Atlantic Division lead over Brooklyn dwindled to a half-game heading into the Nets' home game against Atlanta later Sunday.
"We're all professionals, and sometimes you're going to play short-handed, so you've got to compete, said Jason Kidd, who scored 11 points as the third-oldest player on the court. "In that third quarter, we just lost control of the game. We're going out there trying to win, so we're not sacrificing anything. The biggest concern is just our health. We've got to get healthy first and go from there. But there's no guarantee those guys are going to come back, so we've got to play with the guys we have."