LA Rat Pack Too Talented for Knicks to Handle. LA Clippers 144 NY 122

Paul George plays basketball with the flair of Dean Martin — so casual, and so good. Kawhi Leonard gives off Frank Sinatra vibes — determined, and also very good — arguably the best player in the room. Then there is Russell Westbrook — full of energy like Sammy Davis Jr.

That leaves Peter Lawford or Joey Bishop for James Harden — but Harden is a much bigger talent than them. Maybe Harden is Angie Dickenson.

Maybe Harden is Humphrey Bogart of the original Rat Pack — or even Cary Grant? Or Lauren Bacall, who gave the group its name (“You look like a bunch of rats.”).

In any case — with Kawhi Leonard healthy and doing Kawhi Leonard things, the others in the Clipper Rat Pack allowed their talent to shine and LA became very hard to stop on this evening, pummeling the Knicks 144-122 on a Saturday night in LA.

Leonard belted out 36 points on 12-16 shooting (5-6 from 3). George casually added 25 on 11-18 shooting (3-6 from 3). Harden handed out 12 assists and scored 10, and Russell Westbrook came in with energy off the bench for 10 points on 4-7 shooting.

LA has other talented actors who join the show the way Don Rickles did — like scoring machine Nick Powell, who had 15 on 6-10 shooting, and Terance Mann, who had 13 on 4-8 shooting.

The Knicks had a 4-point lead late in the 2nd quarter, but a couple of turnovers and a bunch of 3’s by Terance Mann ignited a 20-5 run to end the period and LA could not be stopped in the second half. They just had too much talent.

“They’re playing well right now, and they’re great players,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards about the Clippers. “Sometimes you can guard them well and they can make. But you can’t allow that to get you frustrated. I think they had 30 free throws at the half. But at the end of the game it was evened out. So you can’t let that get you off from what you need to do. You’re on the road, it’s the 2nd game of a back-to-back — you can’t have 2 or 3 minutes segment where you get lost. Particularly with the way teams can shoot and score.”

NY drops to 14-11; the LA Clippers improve to 15-10.

1. Knicks Close 1st Quarter Well

The clubs played evenly to start but LA pulled out to a 7-point lead late in the 1st quarter at 28-21. The Knicks stormed back on Julius Randle flurries to the basket to pull to within 35-33 LA at the end of the 1st quarter.

Randle was second to no one on the court. He would finish with 22 pts on 8-17 shooting (0-3 from 3, 6-6 in free throws).

2. Hart Ejected on 2 Quiet Technicals

LA was playing a physical defense, and Josh Hart could be seen tangling with his man on several plays — then arguing with the refs about no foul being called. He got consecutive technicals at 9:28 gone in the 2nd quarter, receiving a 1st one, and then a 2nd one as he was walking away from the ref to the bench — Thibs having pulled him from the game.

The whole thing happened very quietly — Hart was not demonstrative on the court he apparently just said the wrong thing to the ref.

“The game was being called tight, and we got frustrated with that,” said Thibs afterwards.

The loss of Hart, with NY already missing Mitchell Robinson — would hurt NY’s defense.

3. Knicks Gain 4-Point Lead Late in 2nd Quarter

The Knicks 2nd team continued to play with gusto at the start of the 2nd quarter. Isaiah Hartenstein took it to the basket on offense, RJ Barrett was hitting drives and 3’s, and Immanuel Quickley was getting to the basket as well.

Hartenstein finished with 12 points on 5-7 shooting with 10 rebounds. Barrett had a good game with 18 points on 7-15 shooting (2-7 from 3; 2-2 in free throws). Quickley finished with 9 points on  3-8 shooting and Quentin Grimes added 8 pts on 3-8 shooting (2-5 from 3).

There was nothing wrong with the Knicks offense.

When Donte DiVincenzo made 3 free throws after being fouled while taking a 3, the game was tied 52-52 with 5:58 left. DiVincenzo finished with 18 pts.

Then Jalen Brunson came in and made a bucket and a 3 and NY was up 61-57 with 3:37 left in the 1st half.

Things were looking good.

4. LA Takes Control with 20-5 Run to End 2nd

But then consecutive Knick turnovers — one by Randle, one by Hartenstein — and consecutive 3-point jumpers from the corner by Mann gave LA the lead and momentum.

They would go on a 20-5 run to end the quarter and take a 77-66 lead at the half.

5. LA Goes Up 20 in 3rd

Kawhi Leonard went nuts to start the 3rd, and Paul George soon joined him, casually hitting shots from everywhere — sometimes off balance. Russel Westbrook added to the fest and when the big stars weren’t scoring, Nick Powell was a handful.

LA was soon up by 22 points.

6. NY Cuts Deficit to 13 Late in 3rd

The Knicks have no quit in them — and went on a 9-pt run late in the 3rd on buckets by Brunson, Grimes, and Randle — to pull within 13 at 107-94.

There was hope.

But there came Norman Powell again for a jumper and 1, and Westbrook — and LA entered the 4th up 16.

7. Garbage Time 4th Quarter

NY tried to cut into the lead at the start of the 4th, but there was more Norm Powell — a 3 and a drive off a Harden pass and LA was back up 20.

Paul George continued to do his best Dean Martin — casually hitting everything he took and it was a blowout.

With the Knicks playing the 2nd of a back to back, Thibs pulled the tired starters with 6:26 left and NY down 24, and they did not return.

The Boxscore

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