Clippers try to regroup in visit with Knicks

Chris Paul's return to the hardwood wasn't enough to lift the Los Angeles Clippers to victory, so they'll try again Sunday afternoon against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Paul had missed nine straight and 12 of 14 games with a bruised right kneecap and played less than 20 minutes (19:36) in Friday's 111-89 blowout at the hands of the Miami Heat. Paul scored three points and handed out two assists for the Clippers, who are 2-4 on their Grammy road trip and have lost eight of the last 11 games.

Blake Griffin, who had sat out Los Angeles' last two outings with a hamstring injury, finished with 13 points and five rebounds. Clippers reserve Jamal Crawford also sat out the Clippers' last game, an 86-76 win at Orlando on Wednesday, with a sore shoulder and scored 13 points in Miami. The Heat scored 27 points off 19 L.A. turnovers and posted 30-plus points in each of the first three quarters.

Miami buried 15-of-27 3-pointers and shot 52.9 percent for the game.

"We didn't guard the 3-ball at all tonight and they spread us," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "They shot it well and made some tough shots. We're monitoring minutes with some guys and trying to get Chris back. I'm just happy we came out of the game so far unscathed injury-wise."

Clippers guard Chauncey Billups played his first game since Dec. 3 due to a foot problem and recorded seven points in 16:26.

"Surprisingly I felt pretty good," Paul said. "I think that's the most exciting thing about tonight. I asked Chauncey how he felt and he said he felt pretty good. I'm actually excited because we're back on the court. For us, it's not about this game. It is what it is. We'd have loved to win, but it's more about seeing what our team is about.

"As long as we stay healthy, we're going to be fine."

The Pacific Division-leading Clippers are 15-12 on the road and will close out the trip Monday at Philadelphia. They are still one of the top scoring teams in the NBA with 99.7 ppg and strong on defense, allowing 93.7 ppg.

New York is back in the Big Apple for two straight games after holding off the Minnesota Timberwolves, 100-94, Friday night in the Twin Cities.

Carmelo Anthony put up a go-ahead hook shot with less than three minutes remaining to erase an 11-point hole and finished with 36 points. He scored 12 in the final six-plus minutes and J.R. Smith sealed the win on a three-point play, finishing with 15 points.

"We dug a hole, but we just kept fighting," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "Down the stretch our defense kicked in and we made the plays necessary to secure a win."

The Knicks had a 30-18 advantage in the fourth quarter, only after Minnesota outscored the visitors by a 31-18 margin in the third. New York rebounded from a tough loss at Washington on Wednesday to win for the sixth time in seven tries.

The Atlantic Division leaders have won five in a row at Madison Square Garden, where they possess a 19-6 ledger this season. Toronto is scheduled to make a stop in New York Wednesday night.

New York was forced to spend the night in Minneapolis Friday due to inclement weather back home and won last season's only meeting with the Clippers, 99-93, on April 25 at MSG. The Clippers have still won 10 of the last 16 matchups with the Knicks.

These two teams will meet again March 17 at Staples Center.