Chris Paul tweaks hamstring, Clippers tweak Knicks

Wary enough of the struggling New York Knicks, the Clippers had to endure a bigger scare Wednesday night.
They certainly didn’t enjoy seeing Chris Paul leave the floor and head into the locker room in the third quarter with a right hamstring strain.
But they enjoyed the heck out of their reserves in a 93-80 victory at Staples Center. And oh by the way, Paul – who didn’t return to the game – insists he’s OK and will play Friday night in Sacramento.
“Our bench won the game tonight,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Our starters had a rare flat first half and our bench came in and we got an 11-point lead.
“I didn’t think we had a great pace all game. I don’t know why it happens. Again the bench came in and changed the pace of the game, speed and floor spacing. We went back to the proper floor spacing when the bench was in. Maybe that was it.”
The five reserves scored 34 points and with Darren Collison (nine points, three assists) playing at point guard for Paul over the final 15 minutes, the Clippers (11-5) never let the Knicks (3-11) threaten as they lost their seventh straight game.
“It was a good opportunity,” Collison said. “It’s Not all the time the starters are going to do everything. The second unit has to give some help and I think Doc is giving us the opportunity. He’s letting us play and we’re succeeding well. I think the biggest thing is we’re playing defense, and that’s all that matters.
Blake Griffin had 15 points and 13 rebounds and J.J. Redick had 15 points for the Clippers, who improved to 8-1 in home games. After Friday’s game, they are home Sunday against Indiana before embarking on a seven-game road trip.
DeAndre Jordan had nine points and 13 rebounds and Jamal Crawford had 13 off the bench despite missing 7 of 10 shots for the Clippers.
But the primary concern was the status of Paul.
“I just strained my hamstring a little bit. I’m all right,” he said. “I went to the back a little bit, kind of worked on it. I was on the bike watching the game. I told Doc, ‘If you need me, I can go.’
“It’s a little tight but I’ll be all right. I’ll be ready Friday.”
That remains to be seen, of course.
“It was his hamstring and I think he and J.P. (trainer Jasen Powell) said he could have come back in, but there was no chance that he was coming back in,” Rivers said. “Of course, (Paul) told me twice already that he’ll be ready for Friday, that doesn’t mean it’s true. That’s just what he said.”
Collison played 22 minutes, two shy of his season high, but had little choice. In terms of true point guards, it’s Paul and Collison and that’s it for the Clippers.
“We only have two point guards on the team,” Collison said. “That’s something me and the coaches have talked about, that I’ve got to be ready. Times like this with Chris not all the way healthy, I’ve got to be ready to go in there and do my job.
“I’ve been watching Chris for a very long time and I’ve seen how he runs the offense and I’m fine with that. For me it’s just relying on my defense, keep things simple and make sure my teammates get in all the right spots.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 19 of his 27 points in the first half, but New York could muster only 12 points in the final period. Andrea Bargnani had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who are 0-3 on their current four-game road trip.
Felton, who missed four games with a lower back/hip injury, had 12 points and seven assists in 35 minutes. But the Knicks shot only 38.6 percent from the field.
New York got off to a fast start and led by as many as nine points, but the Clippers limited the Knicks to making only 21 of 62 shots after the first period.
The Knicks made only 3 of 20 3-point shots as the Clippers’ defense continues its incremental improvement. They allowed only 80 points in Sunday’s win over Chicago.
“It’s definitely a sign that things are going in the right direction,” Paul said. “But we also played against two teams that sort of just come down throw it to a guy and stuff like, that so it’s not as up-tempo and fast but it’s definitely a good sign. You still have to defend against those teams.”

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