NEW YORK — If the Knicks are going to make the sort of postseason run they hope to make beginning in April, they must improve their perimeter defense.
Chris Paul became the latest quick point guard to victimize the Knicks when he went for 25 points and seven assists in the Clippers’ 102-88 victory over the Knicks Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Paul joins a long list of speedy and talented point guards who have caused major problems for the Knicks recently, including John Wall of the Wizards, Kyrie Irving of the Cavaliers, Ty Lawson of the Nuggets, Kirk Hinrich of the Bulls, Jrue Holiday of the Sixers and Jeff Teague of the Hawks.
“We gotta get better at it,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler said. “I don’t want to point the finger at anyone, especially at the perimeter guys. I don’t want to point the finger at…my perimeter guys. We have to do a better job collectively packing the paint. We gotta do a better job on the screens that’s open and of course, we gotta do a better job with the guards, keeping them out of the paint.”
The Clipper guards combined for 73 points, with Paul and former Knick Jamal Crawford (27 points) combining for 52 points and Eric Bledsoe scoring another 13 points off the bench.
The Clippers had 21 assists to the Knicks’ 11 and shot 10-of-28 (36 percent) from beyond the arc.
“They got some good guards over there,” said point guard Raymond Felton , who briefly left the game in the third quarter after sustaining a neck injury when he collided with Amar’e Stoudemire and Lamar Odom. “I feel like we played good defense, they hit a lot of tough shots. Jamal Crawford hit some tough shots, ‘CP’ hit some tough shots. There’s going to be nights like that. I think overall we did a good job at keeping those guys in front of us.”
Felton said it wasn’t solely the responsibility of the guards to help defend the screen-and-roll that Wall and the Wizards and Paul and the Clippers used to victimize the Knicks.
“I think it’s commitment as a team,” Felton said. “Sometimes the screen-and-roll has been giving us problems for the last game. I don’t think it’s more so put it all on the guards…It’s not necessarily just us by ourselves, but at the same time we gotta figure it out.”
The Knicks’ best perimeter defender is Iman Shumpert, who is still working his way back from ACL surgery and has recently been the subject of trade rumors. Both Carmelo Anthony and coach Mike Woodson tried to downplay the trade talk, but it’s clear that Shumpert’s health and mental well-being going forward are key to the Knicks’ ability to contain opposing point guards.
“I know it is a challenge to continue to guard guys but I am going to work and get better,” Shumpert said.
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