NEW YORK (AP) — Chris Paul preserved the big lead that Jamal Crawford helped build, then they both looked elsewhere for the key to this Clippers victory.
"I think the game ball goes to Grant Hill," Paul said.
Hill led the defensive effort that limited Carmelo Anthony to one basket in the fourth quarter, and Los Angeles pulled away for a 102-88 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday.
Anthony scored 42 points in his fifth 40-point game of the season, but took only two shots in the final period while defended by the 40-year-old Hill, who didn't even play in the first half but was on the floor for the final 15:21.
"I think that Grant Hill sitting on the bench the whole time, he came in and provided a great presence out there on Melo. I don't think we win that game without him," Crawford said.
Paul scored 25 points in his second game back from injury and Crawford, a former Knicks guard, had 27. Blake Griffin finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who bounced back from a 22-point loss in Miami on Friday to win for just the fourth time in 12 games. They finish off their eight-game Grammys road trip Monday in Philadelphia.
"Jamal, Chris, Blake, I mean everybody, it was a team effort. Everybody stepped up at some point," coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Raymond Felton scored 20 points for the Knicks, who lost for the second time in eight games and wrap up their successful first half Wednesday against Toronto. J.R. Smith was only 1 for 9 from the field, getting badly outplayed by Crawford in a matchup of top NBA reserves.
Paul added seven assists and six rebounds after being held to a season-low three points Friday in Miami. He had missed nine straight and 12 of the previous 14 games with a bruised right kneecap, and an excellent Clippers season hit a rocky patch without him.
Paul scored 16 points in the first half, then had five in a row down the stretch to hold off the Knicks comeback attempt.
Anthony had four points in the final period after he had scored 18 in the third. He said the Clippers made a defensive adjustment, changing their pick-and-roll coverage and sending another defender at him.
"There's four other guys on the basketball court, we've just got to make plays and we've been doing that all season long," Anthony said. "Tonight, today we didn't make plays in the fourth quarter and we didn't win the game."
The Clippers are finally getting healthier, with Chauncey Billups also rejoining the lineup Friday, though Del Negro said they still had to balance watching players' minutes to keep the long-term in mind against trying to win the game.
Having one of the NBA's best benches helps. He didn't even have Paul or Griffin in the game, leaving it to Crawford, the leading candidate for the NBA's sixth man award, and Eric Bledsoe to help Los Angeles open a decisive lead in the fourth quarter.