Life without Carmelo Anthony — and with Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott — continued as a winning formula Monday as the Knicks clobbered the sinking Clippers 107-85 at the Garden.
On a night Kristaps Porzingis outplayed Blake Griffin but still wasn’t MVP caliber, the Knicks got important contributions from the two men they obtained from Oklahoma City in the Anthony deal — with Kanter fighting for every offensive rebound and McDermott sinking 3s during a key stretch of the third quarter.
Before another loud but non-sellout crowd of 18,848, the Knicks moved to 8-3 at home and 9-7 overall. Life without Anthony’s buddy, Chris Paul, hasn’t gone as smoothly for the Clippers, who lost their ninth straight to fall to 5-11.
Porzingis scored 25 points, shooting just 7-of-20, but played hard defense on Griffin, who fouled out after an errant night. Porzingis got plenty of aid as six Knicks hit for double figures.
Kanter scored 12 points and grabbed 16 rebounds (six on the offensive glass) and McDermott added 16 points (5-of-7 from beyond the arc). Tim Hardaway Jr., playing with a bad foot, added 13. Point guard Jarrett Jack put up 11 points with seven assists, while Courtney Lee added 10 points.
The locker room was positively giddy after this one — the usually serious Hardaway screaming out “McBuckets’’ in the locker room. That’s the college nickname of McDermott, once the NCAA player of the year whose pro career hasn’t taken off until now as a trusty sixth man.
“I told him he owes me a dinner,’’ Kanter said of McDermott. “That’s his thing [3-pointers], but he’s also playing great defense. I’m glad he’s here with me. But I’m muscling with big dudes to get offensive rebounds to get him open shots. I said, ‘C’mon man, you got to buy me dinner.’ ”
McDermott praised Kanter’s boardwork, but paying for dinner isn’t happening.
“I’m just having more fun than I’ve ever had with a team,’’ McDermott said. “Very unselfish group, great young team. I haven’t been part of a team like this since I’ve been in the league. It’s making it fun to come to work every day.’’
As leading man, Anthony couldn’t get the Knicks into the playoffs for four straight seasons. Now Porzingis is eating up the No. 1 role, though his shooting slump continued. But Jeff Hornacek was more focused on how well Porzingis did defensively in frustrating Griffin.
“KP was very smart the way he played,’’ Hornacek said.
Griffin fouled out with 4:46 left after scoring 21 points with five assists, but shooting 6-of-17 and getting blocked by Porzingis. The Knicks hadn’t beaten the Clippers at the Garden since 2011 as Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan usually feast here.
Hornacek praised Kanter’s effort against Jordan, who put up modest numbers of 10 points and nine boards, and his offensive efficiency.
“He didn’t force anything,’’ Hornacek said. “Sometimes guys get frustrated not getting shots. He played his role perfectly. He had to deal with DeAndre, box him off the boards. He set screens outside. He had four shots, but had a big influence.’’
The Kanter-Porzingis tandem held up well against perennial All-Stars Jordan and Griffin.
“They are two physical guys, and Enes and I were ready for it,’’ Porzingis said. “A lot of guys got involved — Doug shooting 3s, Enes hitting the boards all night.’’
The Clippers gave the Knicks a scare in the third quarter with a 15-0 run — Griffin’s corner 3 bringing the Clippers to within 66-64.
But the Knicks ran off 12 straight points to blow open the game. Kanter scored on an alley-oop and McDermott sank three 3-pointers, and the Clippers were toast.
“You know Doug is going to make shots — he’s a great shooter,’’ Hornacek said. “As coaches, we tend to look at his defense more. There was a stretch he played really well defensively, got after it, fought over screens.”
Despite foot pain, Hardaway said he felt good after changing his sneakers and soles. The Knicks have looked good, too, though they got off to a bad start, trailing 34-26, after which Hornacek called timeout. The Knicks went on 14-0 and 23-4 sprees.
“We told them simply to move the ball,’’ Hornacek said.
Before the game, Hornacek again tried tempering playoff talk this early. After the Anthony trade, it was clear this was a full reboot where wins and losses would not be the measure of success.
“We’re trying to build a foundation to see if we can get better,’’ Hornacek said.“It’s not going to get better immediately. If we take two steps forward and one step back, we’ll win enough games. It’s more about what we do as a team in establishing a culture here, not worry so much about the wins and losses.’’
The culture — and wins — are on the upswing.