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Crawford feels at home as Clippers top Knicks

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Jamal Crawford enjoyed being back at Madison Square Garden, where he said he felt he grew up in his NBA life. But the Los Angeles Clippers guard enjoyed having his teammates getting back on the same page even more.

Crawford scored 27 points to help the Clippers rebound from a rough loss by beating the New York Knicks 102-88 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Crawford said he was helped largely by having the team's many injured players back in the lineup another game, freeing him from having to play point guard.

The full lineup shook off some rust after a 22-point loss to the Miami Heat on Friday night. This time, it allowed 42 points to Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, but shut him down in the fourth quarter, when he scored four points and could barely get off a shot.

Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who had missed nine straight games before returning on Friday, scored 25 points, including several key baskets down the stretch for the Clippers. L.A. moved to 3-4 on its eight-game road trip after dropping four of five. Blake Griffin added 17 points and 12 rebounds and Eric Bledsoe had 13 points for the Clippers (36-17).

"Unbelievable; Jamal was hitting shot after shot and that's the Jamal we want to see," Paul said of Crawford. "With me and Chauncey (Billups) being back, he can go back to his natural position and not have to play point guard."

Crawford far outplayed fellow NBA Sixth Man of the Year award candidate J.R. Smith, who scored six points for the Knicks. Smith was just 1-of-9 shooting from the field for New York (32-17), which lost for just the second time in the past eight games.

Anthony had helped the Knicks wipe out an eight-point deficit in the third quarter, but with veteran Grant Hill defending him in the fourth quarter along with several double teams. He didn't even attempt a field goal until the final minutes.

"Today, we couldn't get over the hump," Anthony said. "We got the lead, made it a game, but those guys got some hustle plays, made shots and it opened the game up."

Raymond Felton had 20 points and five assists for New York, after leaving with a scary neck injury late in the third quarter, but returning in the fourth.

Up one entering the final quarter, Crawford and Bledsoe combined to score the Clippers' first 11 points of the fourth as they opened an 82-75 lead. L.A., which put Hill on Anthony and kept the Knicks forward without a point in the fourth quarter until there were less than 5 minutes left, took a 90-78 lead with 4:58 left.

"Carmelo Anthony is probably the best scorer in the world and I don't think anybody can stop him, but he definitely played great defense," Paul said of the 40-year-old Hill. "He's just smart. He never rests. He understand you can't give a guy ... a steady diet of the same defense."

Anthony said the Clippers' double-teams were as much of a factor as Hill and he heard their coaches screaming, "Don't let him catch the ball, make it tough."

The Knicks pulled back within 92-86 with 2:48 remaining thanks to four points each from Anthony and Felton. Paul, though, scored six points on the Clippers' next three possessions to get the lead back up to 97-86 with 1:40 left and the Clippers cruised from there.

Down eight at halftime, the Knicks entered the fourth quarter trailing 71-70, thanks mostly to 18 points in the third from Anthony, including a 3-pointer to pull them within one in the final minute of the period.

The Knicks lost Felton after he drove to the basket for a slick layup late in the third. Off-balanced as he came down, Felton was struck by the right arm of teammate Amar'e Stoudemire, who was preparing for a rebound. Felton then fell backward into Lamar Odom, with his neck jerking awkwardly as he did so. Felton remained on the floor while play continued down the other end.

Play was eventually stopped and Felton remained on the ground for a few minutes before getting up and walking off to the locker room. He returned to start the fourth quarter.

"It's all right," Felton said of his neck, which he acknowledged should be sore Monday morning. "Felt like I got hit like a ping-pong ball."

Notes: Amid reports the Knicks are considering trading guard Iman Shumpert, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said "we've got a lot of faith in him" and that "when it counts, he'll be here, I think." Shumpert has struggled in his recent return from ACL surgery and a Yahoo! Sports report said the Phoenix Suns could send Jared Dudley to the Knicks as part of a deal for Shumpert. However, a team source told ESPN New York the deal is "unlikely at this point." The ESPN report indicated the Knicks could consider dealing Shumpert though. Shumpert said he couldn't worry about the situation because he couldn't control it. Anthony spoke up for his young teammate, saying "Shump, he ain't going nowhere. ... The Knicks shouldn't even be in trade talks." ... Crawford, who said he felt like he had "grown from a young boy to a man" while playing for the Knicks early in his career, said it was "always special to come back to the Garden. It is my favorite arena to play at besides staples. It is fun to come back." ... Actor Tom Hanks, who makes his Broadway debut in "Lucky Guy" next month, attended the game and received a loud ovation when shown on the scoreboard's video screen.