The Knicks had the best player on the court but not the best team.

Carmelo Anthony finished with 42 points but the super-deep Clippers repelled the Knicks second-half comeback and posted a 102-88 Garden-matinee thumping in their season’s first meeting.

"Their bench has been good for them all year," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "Our bench had been good for us. That was the difference."

Only one team looked championship-caliber and it wasn’t the home team. It was the first time this season the Knicks (32-17) looked legitimately outmanned and outclassed.

Melo kept them in it singlehandedly, carrying 38 points into the fourth quarter but quieted down in the final period, scoring just 4 points. The Clippers (36-17) began the quarter on a 19-8 game-sealing run. The Knicks had rallied to within one point, 71-70, after three quarters behind Anthony’s 18 points in the frame.

The shining example of the Clippers’ superior depth occurred in domination in the battle between Sixth Man of the Year candidates as ex-Knick Jamal Crawford absolutely destroyed J.R. Smith. The Clippers bench outscored the reputed Knicks bench 48-15/

Clippers star point guard Chris Paul had a lovely game in just his second contest back from an injured kneecap, scoring 25 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. It was Paul’s first game at the Garden in nearly two years. Blake Griffin soared for 17 points and 12 rebounds.