A Good Loss? 5 Reasons Why LA Clippers 129 NY 115 on 1-31-21

A loss is a loss. But the Knicks lost to the 15-5 Clippers, hanging in throughout and were only down 2 points with 7 minutes left in the game, until LA pulled away. Afterwards, everybody seemed happy.

Everyone was happy except for some Knicks fans who felt coach Tom Thibodeau could’ve won this game had he not waited so long to put RJ Barrett and Julius Randle back into the game in the 4th quarter.

Here’s 5 ways it went down:

1. Quickley Stars Again

For Knicks world, this was another Immanuel Quickley coming-out game. He went nuts in the second half — the 4th quarter especially — with his attack attack attack style vaulting the Knicks back into a game where LA had taken a 10-point lead after 3 quarters.

Quickley’s 3 with 7:44 left made it a 2-point game, 105-103 LA.

Quickley — who finished with 25 points on 9-16 shooting, would not score another field goal. LA geared its defense toward him, putting Khwai Leonard on him at times.

2. Thibs Substition Pattern Hickup

LA then put the Knicks away — with Ivica Zubac, Paul George, and Marcus Morris  hitting shots — all with Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson still resting on the bench. Randle was first back in, for Obi Toppin, with 6:22 left — but Taj Gibson missed a 3 pointer and Kawhi Leonard made a bucket to make it 114-103 LA with 5:45 left. Finally Barrett and Robinson came in but the damage was done. That short 2 minute period of not having the starters back in against LA’s starters allowed LA to retake command.

3. Barrett Bangs With Game’s Elite

RJ Barrett played well all game and especially dominated in the closing minutes, putting the Knicks on his back trying to keep them in it — taking it to Paul George and/or Kawhi Leonard, and playing great defense against George (and Leonard when he switched off to him) as well.

Afterwards, Kawhi Leonard had this to say about RJ Barrett: “He took on the challenge and that’s how you get better. Trying to guard the best players on the floor and also trying to attack them. I liked his mindset tonight. Sky’s the limit depending on how hard he works and where his mental is.”

Barrett finished with 23 pts on 9-14 shooting (0-1 from 3, 5-6 in free throws), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals in 31 minutes (3 fouls). The minute total is interesting as Thibs had been playing him 40 a night, and in this game Knick fans felt he should’ve been back in earlier in that 4th. Barrett played 40 minutes in each of the prior two games — but the Knicks were playing the first of a back-to-back — with Chicago on tap the next night.

4.  Knicks Big Three — with Wraps Still on the 4th?

It was clear in this game that the Knicks have 3 guys who can ball at an elite level — Barrett, Randle, and Quickley. And a 4th guy knocking on the door in Mitchell Robinson. But the Clippers seemed to have 5 guys who can do that — George, Leonard, Marcus Morris (former Knick whom NY traded and essentially got Quickley with the 1st round pick they received), Reggie Jackson, and Serge Ibaka.

The Knicks could’ve used a little more from Mitchell Robinson in this game — he played well enough — 9 pts (on 4-6 shooting, 6 rebounds, a block, and a -3) but his counterpart Serge Ibaka did more — 15 pts on 5-6 shooting (3-4 from 3) although only 3 rebounds. If Mitchell Robinson does indeed have an offensive game that the Knicks allow him to take the wraps off of — it will bring Mitch and the Knicks to another level.

5. Knicks Defense Shredded

While most in Knick City were happy, if you read the ESPN recap on the game, it told a different story — that LA had shredded the Knicks Defense — which came in as the best in the NBA — without two of their starters. Yes that’s right — the Knicks had allowed the fewest points per game coming in. LA scored 129 points the most any team has scored against the Knicks this year. And LA had two starters not playing — Nicolas Batum (groin) and Patrick Beverley.

31-year-old veteran Pat Patterson started in place of Batum and scored 13 points in the first half on 5-5 shooting (3-3 from 3). Julius Randle was not getting out on him to defend his 3. As Rodney Blaise put it at the half, “It’s the defense. No issues on O. Randle got caught sleeping 2/3x for three pointers.”

NY made adjustments at the half and Patterson didn’t score any more; but damage was done.

Other Knicks

Kevin Knox got a DNP in this game. He’s been playing well this year, but Taj Gibson is now getting his minutes — Taj played 18 minutes in this game, and was 0-4 for 0 points and a -11. With perfect hindsight maybe the Knicks could have used some Kevin Knox 3’s — but again it was the Knicks defense that was getting shredded and Thibs no doubt had Taj in to counter that. Obi Toppin played 13 minutes 0-2 (2-2 in free throws) and ended up with a +3.

Reggie Bullock (3-6, 2-3 from 3 for 8 pts in 26 min) and Alec Burks (3-8, 1-4 from 3 for 4 pts in 22 min) played well enough. Elfrid Payton played fairly well at the point — 10 pts on 3-7 (1-2 from 3, 3-4 in free throws) in 21 minutes and Austin Rivers was ok (4 pts on 1-4 in 17 min).


During the game, there was this exchange on tv:

Mike Breen: “It’s got to be a thrill for Quickley guarding Lou Williams today.”

Walt Frazier: “Easy for you to say! That’s what they used to say to me, “Oh you get to guard Oscar Robertson today, what a thrill.” Yeah, right!”

The Boxscore



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