By BRIAN MAHONEY
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK — Chris Paul preserved the big lead that Jamal Crawford helped build, then they both looked elsewhere for the key to this Clippers victory.
“I think the game ball goes to Grant Hill,” Paul said.
Hill led the defensive effort that limited Carmelo Anthony to one basket in the fourth quarter, and Los Angeles pulled away for a 102-88 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday.
Anthony scored 42 points in his fifth 40-point game of the season, but took only two shots in the final period while defended by the 40-year-old Hill, who didn’t even play in the first half but was on the floor for the final 15:21.
“I think that Grant Hill sitting on the bench the whole time, he came in and provided a great presence out there on Melo. I don’t think we win that game without him,” Crawford said.
Paul scored 25 points in his second game back from injury and Crawford, a former Knicks guard, had 27. Blake Griffin finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who bounced back from a 22-point loss in Miami on Friday to win for just the fourth time in 12 games. They finish off their eight-game Grammys road trip Monday in Philadelphia.
“Jamal, Chris, Blake, I mean everybody, it was a team effort. Everybody stepped up at some point,” coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Raymond Felton scored 20 points for the Knicks, who lost for the second time in eight games and wrap up their successful first half Wednesday against Toronto. J.R. Smith was only 1 for 9 from the field, getting badly outplayed by Crawford in a matchup of top NBA reserves.
Paul added seven assists and six rebounds after being held to a season-low three points Friday in Miami. He had missed nine straight and 12 of the previous 14 games with a bruised right kneecap, and an excellent Clippers season hit a rocky patch without him.
Paul scored 16 points in the first half, then had five in a row down the stretch to hold off the Knicks comeback attempt.
Anthony had four points in the final period after he had scored 18 in the third. He said the Clippers made a defensive adjustment, changing their pick-and-roll coverage and sending another defender at him.
“There’s four other guys on the basketball court, we’ve just got to make plays and we’ve been doing that all season long,” Anthony said. “Tonight, today we didn’t make plays in the fourth quarter and we didn’t win the game.”
The Clippers are finally getting healthier, with Chauncey Billups also rejoining the lineup Friday, though Del Negro said they still had to balance watching players’ minutes to keep the long-term in mind against trying to win the game.
Having one of the NBA’s best benches helps. He didn’t even have Paul or Griffin in the game, leaving it to Crawford, the leading candidate for the NBA’s sixth man award, and Eric Bledsoe to help Los Angeles open a decisive lead in the fourth quarter.
Hill came on in the third quarter after Caron Butler was lost to a sore lower back and nobody else was having any success against Anthony, and made him work to even get the ball where he wanted it.
“I’ve battled against him. He’s a great player,” Hill said. “I have as much respect for him. He’s one of my favorite players to watch but you try to do things to make it difficult. You’ve to have selective memory because when he hits a shot, you’ve just got to be able to move on to the next play. He’s a great player.”
Bledsoe made all six shots and finished with 13 points as the Clippers’ bench outscored the Knicks’ 48-15.
“Things happen, man. Just sometimes it’s one of those nights when shots don’t fall,” Felton said. “Our bench has been great for us all year, and sometimes the ball don’t just go in the basket for you and it was one of those days.”
The Clippers scored the final five points of the first quarter for a 22-17 lead, then opened the second with eight in a row to go up 30-17 on a pair of free throws by Matt Barnes. They led 52-44 at halftime.
Anthony got on one of his blistering streaks in the third, scoring 11 points in under 4 ½ minutes, including a 3-pointer that gave the Knicks a 61-60 lead. It went back and forth from there until he capped his 18-point period with a 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining that cut the Clippers’ edge to 71-70 heading to the fourth.
But after Amare Stoudemire’s three-point play to open the quarter, the Clippers scored 15 of the next 19 points, taking an 86-77 lead on Crawford’s basket with about 7 minutes left.
The Knicks fell behind by 12 later in the period before getting within six with under 3 minutes left. Paul then scored five straight points to push it back to 11 and put it away.
The Knicks were forced to spend an extra night in Minnesota after Friday’s victory because of the snow storm that pounded the Northeast, before getting home Saturday afternoon. The Clippers were already scheduled to remain in Miami on Friday and practice there Saturday before traveling to New York.
SPURS 111, NETS 86
NEW YORK — Tony Parker had 29 points and 11 assists in another brilliant performance without his two sidekicks, and San Antonio dominated the second half to beat Brooklyn.
Two nights after a loss in Detroit ended their 11-game winning streak, the Spurs got back on track quickly behind Parker, who fell short of his third straight 30-point game only because he was so good he sat out the final minutes of the rout.
Danny Green added 14 points and Tiago Splitter had 13 for the Spurs, who were again without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili because of injuries as they beat the Nets for the 19th time in 20 meetings.
Joe Johnson scored 19 points and Brook Lopez had 18 for the Nets.
THUNDER 97, SUNS 69
PHOENIX — Thabo Sefolosha made a career-high 5 3-pointers and Oklahoma City routed Phoenix for the second game in a row.
The 28-point blowout followed a 127-96 romp over the Suns in Oklahoma City on Friday night.
Russell Westbrook scored 24 points in 28 minutes in the Thunder’s 10th straight victory over Phoenix, the longest active streak for any Suns opponent.
Sefolosha added 20 points, two shy of his career high. Kevin Durant scored 18, 11 below his NBA-leading season average (29.1), in limited duty in the Thunder’s fourth straight win.
Markieff Morris was the only Phoenix player in double figures with 12 points.
NUGGETS 114, 3 OT
BOSTON — Paul Pierce had a triple-double with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists, and Boston extended its winning streak to seven games with a triple overtime win over Denver.
The loss ended Denver’s winning streak at nine games.
Pierce made a 3-pointer in the second overtime, sending the game to a third extra period with the score tied at 107.
Kevin Garnett had 20 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, while reserve Jason Terry scored a season-high 26 points for the Celtics, who remain unbeaten since Rajon Rondo’s season-ending knee injury.
Ty Lawson scored 29 points to lead the Nuggets.
MAGIC 110, BLAZERS 104
ORLANDO, Fla. — J.J. Redick scored 22 points, Nikola Vucevic added 17 points and 19 rebounds, and Orlando snapped a 12-game losing streak with a win over Portland.
The Magic shot 50 percent from the field in earning their first win since Jan. 16. They play their next two games at home. Reserve Gustavo Ayon had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando.
LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 25 points. Nicolas Batum added 19 points and Wesley Matthews chipped in with 17.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tayshaun Prince scored 18 points, hitting all eight of his shots from the field, and Memphis pulled away in the second quarter before coasting to a win over Minnesota.
Three other Memphis players — Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Austin Daye — each finished with 16 points. Conley also handed out eight assists, while Randolph grabbed eight rebounds to help the Grizzlies win their second straight.
Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio led the Timberwolves with 17 points apiece, and both finished with four assists. Mickael Gelabale scored 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting and Alexey Shved had 10 points and nine assists for Minnesota, which has lost 15 of 17 — including eight straight on the road.
TORONTO — John Lucas scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to match his season high and Rudy Gay had 20 points to lead Toronto over New Orleans.
Kyle Lowry had 14 points and 10 assists, and Amir Johnson scored 14 points for the Raptors, who won consecutive games for the first time since beating Philadelphia and Charlotte on Jan. 9 and 11.
Jonas Valanciunas had 11 points and 10 rebounds as the Raptors blew open a close game by outscoring the Hornets 33-23 in the final quarter.
Robin Lopez scored 19 points, Greivis Vasquez had 17 and Ryan Anderson 15 for the Hornets, who lost for the first time in three games. Brian Roberts had 13 points for New Orleans.