For the first time all season, the Knicks looked outclassed and outmanned.
Carmelo Anthony finished with 42 points, but the super-deep Clippers led by point guard Chris Paul repelled the Knicks’ second-half comeback. The Clippers posted an emphatic 102-88 Garden-matinee thumping in their season’s first meeting with the Knicks. Only one team looked championship-calibre — and it wasn’t Mike Woodson’s.
“We know we can beat them, we’ve beaten teams like that before,’’ Anthony said. “Today we just couldn’t get over the hump. Those guys got some hustle plays, made shots and it opened the game up. We had our spurts but we didn’t put a complete game together.’’
Anthony kept them in it on his own, carrying 38 points into the fourth quarter but quieted down in the final period, scoring just four points as another bench member, veteran Grant Hill, slowed him down and nobody could pick up the slack for Anthony.
The Clippers (36-17) began the quarter on a 19-8 game-sealing run. The Knicks had rallied from 13 points down to within one point, 71-70, after three quarters behind Anthony’s 18 third-quarter points, which included four 3-pointers.
Woodson blamed himself for taking Anthony out to start the fourth quarter because he cooled off upon his return three minutes into the quarter. But Anthony said Woodson made the right move.
“I don’t know if he wanted me to play the whole 48,’’ Anthony said.
“Very disappointing,’’ Tyson Chandler said. “When he gets it going, we have to continue to feed him, but we got to make sure everybody is involved.’’
The Knicks had beaten Miami and San Antonio twice in statement wins and lost three hard-fought games with the Bulls. But the Knicks yesterday didn’t seem to have the weapons to compete with the Western powers.
The Knicks talk about winning a title this year, but that sure looked distant yesterday.