Early birds Sunday, the Clippers got the win 129-115 — their 10th in 11 games.
Sunday’s game was among the many with an adjusted tip-off time by the league as it alters schedules for coronavirus-related postponements, so it started at 1 p.m. in New York — making for brunch basketball for the L.A. crowd.
“It is what it is,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We just got to be able to adapt like we have talked all season long, and been changing a couple of start times, a few start times on this trip. It is what it is and we just got to be ready to play.”
And, for the first half, it was a lesson in day trading in New York, where after the opening bell, the lead teeter-tottered back and forth, back and forth.
There were 10 ties and 11 lead changes until the Clippers (16-5) pulled ahead by 10 points entering the fourth quarter thanks to one of their now-patented big third quarters: They outscored the Knicks 35-26 in this one.
But Tom Thibodeau’s teams aren’t the type to concede — and so they erased all but two points, 105-103, of the Clippers’ advantage with 7:44 still to play in the fourth quarter.
Lue’s squad, it turns out, is proving to be one that doesn’t let go so easily, needing fewer than two minutes to grow the lead back to 114-103.
The Clippers buckled down defensively down the stretch and got a series of game-sealing buckets from Kawhi Leonard (game-high 28 points), Paul George (17 points, eight rebounds) and Serge Ibaka (15 points).
The Knicks (9-12) fought to stay in it with extra effort to which Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley contributed much. Playing for the first time against Lou Williams, one of his basketball heroes, the 21-year-old guard had an inspired 25 points (including 15 in the second half).
Williams, bothered recently by hip discomfort, had a comfortable nine points and five assists — including one on Marcus Morris Sr.’s fading 3-pointer with 6:22 to play that capped a 7-0 Clippers run that reasserted control 112-103.
In his first game against the Knicks since they traded him to the Clippers at the deadline last season, Morris finished with 11 points.
The Clippers kept pace early on in large part because of the contributions of Patrick Patterson, their reliable veteran forward whose start Sunday marked his first action on the road trip and his first appearance in the starting lineup since Feb. 8, 2020.
Recently, Lue explained why he wouldn’t hesitate to insert the 11th-year forward into the fray when he needed him — and he did Sunday when Nicolas Batum was a late scratch with a left groin contusion.
“Our coaching staff, we always just (call) Pat Pat ‘Just Add Water’ because he is always ready,” the Clippers coach said of the former Kentucky standout, who was averaging 3.6 points and who’d played in only seven of the Clippers’ 20 games entering Sunday — when he was a perfect 5 for 5, scoring all 13 of his points in 11 first-half minutes.
Reggie Jackson — another understudy called into action while staring guard Patrick Beverley is out with right knee soreness — continued to nail his notes. “Action Jackson” — as Beverley called him on Twitter during the game — finished with 18 points — 10 of which came on 4-of-5 shooting in the third period.
The Knicks’ Julius Randle continued his hefty output of late, with 27 points.
More to come on this story.