Collapsing down the stretch as their playoff hopes slip away, the Knicks look to end their struggles against the Clippers as the teams conclude their season series Wednesday night.
New York (28-42) is in danger of matching a season high for consecutive defeats, virtually ending its postseason aspirations with 12 games to play.
The Knicks have lost six in a row on two occasions this season. The final loss of their last such skid was against the Clippers (17-54), 128-124 in overtime Feb. 11.
Los Angeles, which has the league’s third-worst record, has won three straight and seven of eight against New York. The Clippers will try to continue their success in the series against a Knicks team that has matched a season high with four straight home losses, including a 106-102 defeat to Orlando on Monday night.
That clinched New York’s eighth straight losing season, tying a franchise worst. The Knicks also finished below .500 from 1959-1967.
“I’m not worried about what happened the last seven years, I’m worried about this year,” New York coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I’m not very happy the way things are going right now. But we’re playing pretty well, we’re playing hard and as long as we can do that, keep trying to get a little bit better.”
A bright spot for the Knicks was the return of forward David Lee, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds after missing a loss at Orlando on Saturday night due to tendinitis in his right knee. Lee is tied with Magic star Dwight Howard for the league lead with 55 double-doubles.
New York, though, was without Larry Hughes (toe), averaging 13.5 points in 15 games since being acquired in a trade with Chicago. The veteran swingman is listed as questionable.
Even if Hughes has to sit out again, the Knicks shouldn’t have much trouble scoring against the Clippers. New York averages 105.5 points per game and Los Angeles allows 103.7.
The Clippers played well on defense in a 90-77 loss to Boston on Monday night. It was the first time in seven games the Clippers gave up fewer than 100 points.
Still, Los Angeles lost for the 11th time in its last 13 contests. The Clippers have been outscored by an average of 19.7 points during a nine-game road losing streak.
“It’s been kind of a constant theme this year,” Los Angeles center Chris Kaman said. “We have a lot of talent and a lot of guys who play hard, and it just hasn’t gone our way yet this year. It’s frustrating.”
Kaman, who missed most of the season due to a foot injury, has come off the bench in three of the last four games so coach Mike Dunleavy can limit his minutes. The veteran center is averaging 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in eight games since returning.
Second-year forward Al Thornton returned to the lineup Monday after missing a game due to a sore right shoulder. He had 20 points and eight rebounds in this season’s first matchup with New York.