The fun was just getting started for the Clippers when they walked off the court with their most lopsided victory at Madison Square Garden in franchise history.
A Clippers official announced that Coach Doc Rivers had developed a stomach illness, leaving assistant Mike Woodson to address the media Wednesday night after the team’s 111-80 victory over the New York Knicks.
Those would be the same Knicks who fired Woodson in April, a season after he guided them to their first playoff series victory in 13 seasons.
So, when did Rivers tell Woodson that he was going to be sick?
“No comment,” Woodson said with a sly smile.
The Clippers could afford to be a touch mischievous after easily topping their previous biggest victory at the Garden, a 17-point triumph in March 1996.
The team’s fifth consecutive victory gave it a 1 1/2-game lead on Portland for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with 10 games left in the regular season.
Of course, it’s not enough to just beat the Knicks anymore.
Real success comes in winning so comfortably that your starters get to spend the fourth quarter on the bench as highly compensated cheerleaders. Thus the Clippers could chalk up a victory in every sense after a shellacking of the team with the NBA’s worst record.
The beatdown was so severe that the Knicks didn’t mind showing multiple replays of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan’s vicious one-handed dunk over Jason Smith late in the second quarter.
Hey, it qualified as entertainment in a game largely lacking it.
Jordan’s dunks were among the few things that elicited an audible reaction from the crowd. He finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds as every Clippers starter reached double figures in scoring before leaving the game late in the third quarter.
That allowed the Clippers’ Austin Rivers extra time to flourish. The reserve guard made his first nine shots before missing his final try on the way to 21 points.
Rivers credited teammate Chris Paul for shaking him out of a momentary funk in the first quarter after the Clippers reserves entered the game and gave up an offensive rebound and a three-point basket.
“Chris grabs me and he goes, ‘Man, you’re too … lackadaisical. You need to … step it up. We’re playing for the playoffs,’ ” Rivers said. “It just woke me up and after that we started rolling.”
Cleanthony Early had 18 points for the Knicks, who are so bad that the New York Times pulled its beat writer for about two months before reinstating him to cover the team only this week with the end of the season nearing.
The Knicks are without star Carmelo Anthony (knee) and guards Jose Calderon (Achilles’ tendon) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (wrist). But they recently beat the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and were competitive against the Memphis Grizzlies, giving Doc Rivers a few pregame talking points with his team.
He didn’t need them.
The Clippers opened an 11-point lead by the end of the first quarter and were ahead by 30 points at halftime, removing any uncertainty besides how to deal with Rivers’ alleged illness.
“The poor guy was struggling to get through the game,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said, smiling.
Griffin called Woodson “the voice of reason” offensively for the team because of his crafty out-of-bounds and end-of-game plays.
Not that the Clippers needed any of those in a runaway against his former team.