NEW YORK — The words of Chris Paul still rang in the ears of his Clippers teammates even though their leader was not with the team.
"Something CP always says when we're on a road trip, 'Can't win them all without winning that first one,'" Blake Griffin said about Paul, who is out with a separated right shoulder and isn't on the trip with his teammates.
And the Clippers did just that, starting their seven-game, 11-day trip with an impressive beating of the New York Knicks, 109-95, Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Griffin was that catalyst for a Clippers team that had five players score in double figures and now has a season-high five-game winning streak.
He had 32 points on 12-for-20 shooting, seven for nine from the free-throw line. He had seven rebounds, two assists, one blocked shot and took his turn defending Carmelo Anthony.
When the Clippers went on a seven-game trip last month, they lost that first game in Atlanta, making it an uneven trip the rest of the way.
This time, the Clippers were intent on getting that first victory, knowing they will face a tough Indiana Pacers team Saturday night.
"So to get the first one for us is obviously great to get the win," Griffin said. "But to start off the road trip with a win is great for us to have that mind-set for the rest of the games."
The mind-set the Clippers had was to clamp down on defense in the second half.
The score was tied at 50 at the half, so the Clippers knew they had enough offense even it wasn't a thing of beauty for them to make just 32.6% of their first-half shots.
But the Clippers held the Knicks to 30.2% shooting in the second half, and they had Anthony in their cross hairs all game.
Anthony had 26 points and 20 rebounds. But he missed 19 of his 23 shots.
The Clippers, on the other hand, shot 56.3% from the field in the second half, 41.7% (five for 12) from three-point range.
Jamal Crawford had 14 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to help the Clippers improve to .500 on the road at 10-10.
"In the second half," Crawford said, "we got better on defense."
Back-to-back three-pointers by Griffin, who glared at a fan sitting courtside next to filmmaker Spike Lee after another of his jumpers, and Jared Dudley, who belatedly joined the scoring party after he had compiled more fouls (five) than baskets (zero), gave the Clippers an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter that spelled the end for an already dead-looking Knicks team.
As the Knicks fans booed during a timeout with 7:23 left, the Clippers strolled to their bench feeling good about things.
"It's fun, especially when a fan is sitting there talking to you," Griffin said, smiling. "I hit a shot early in the first half right there in front of him. I heard him so I kept going back to him. I wanted to show him some love."