NEW YORK (AP)—The Los Angeles Clippers are playing so well that they can’t wait for their next road game.
Who cares that it’s at Detroit?
Sam Cassell shook off a poor game to hit consecutive 3-pointers in the final two minutes, including the go-ahead one, and the Clippers beat the New York Knicks 85-82 Tuesday night for their fourth straight victory.
Elton Brand scored 25 points, nine in the fourth quarter, and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Clippers improved to 4-1 on their six-game road trip that ends Wednesday night at Detroit. They have won nine of 10 overall.
“If we want to contend with the upper-echelon teams, then we have to play well tomorrow and expect to win,” said Brand, who also had four of his five blocked shots in the fourth quarter. “They’re going to be revved up at home, so we got to bring it.”
Cassell was quiet for most of the game and finished with only 13 points. Before his late surge the most energy he showed was when he was hit with a technical foul that was taken away by another referee.
But when it came to the closing minutes, he and the Clippers outplayed—and outsmarted—the dismal Knicks.
“At that time, it doesn’t matter what he’s shooting—0-for-10, 0-for-20— he’s going to knock down a big shot for us,” Brand said.
Jalen Rose scored 23 points in his second game for the Knicks, who have lost six straight and 12 of 13, but he couldn’t get the ball in from the sideline with the Knicks trailing by one point with 2.2 seconds left.
That’s because the Clippers knew the play as well as the Knicks did.
“Our coaching staff did do a great job,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “We knew that play was coming.”
New York dropped to 0-6 this season without starting point guard Stephon Marbury.
New York led 78-77 after Jamal Crawford’s basket with 2:48 to play, but Cassell drilled a 3 about a minute later for an 80-78 lead. He missed on the next possession, but got the ball back after an offensive rebound and made another 3 from the corner with 1:13 remaining to extend the lead to five points.
Cassell explained the second 3-pointer in his own unique way.
“Chris Kaman made a valiant effort trying to get the offensive rebound,” Cassell said. “The ball some kind of way went to the corner. I saved it and they went away from me. I was in the corner—that’s the easiest 3 on the court. I just launched it.
“Cat (Cuttino Mobley) thought I was crazy for shooting it. I said, ‘Cat, I might not get me a better shot than that.”
Before that, Brand had carried the Clippers in the final quarter. Los Angeles trailed by seven points with 8 minutes to go, but had half the Clippers’ points in a 12-4 spurt and gave them a 77-76 lead with a jumper with 3:09 left.
The Knicks got within 83-82 and had the ball after a Clippers miss, but Rose couldn’t get the ball in and was called for a 5-second violation.
Rose was asked if he was counting to five in his head.
“Yes, but he was counting also,” Rose said. The referee, I heard him say, ‘One, one thousand’, but I think he forgot the other four.
“Their guys did a good job. The end of the game, the referees want to decide it on the floor and they did a good job of bottling guys up, being physical, holding, grabbing, doing whatever they had to do to do not give an inch. That’s a veteran team that’s doing that, and that’s why the Clippers are having one of the better seasons they’ve ever had.”
Mobley made two free throws, and Brand knocked away a desperation inbounds pass.
Kaman added 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers (29-17), who are a game behind the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves for the best record in franchise history after 46 games. That team went a franchise-best 49-33.
The Knicks shot 32 percent in the first half but still led 40-36 behind 12 points from Rose. The Clippers then opened a 58-51 lead on Cassell’s 3-pointer with 3:11 left in the third, but the Knicks closed the quarter with a 10-2 spurt to take a 61-60 lead on Nate Robinson’s steal and layup with 1.4 seconds left.
New York then opened the fourth with consecutive baskets by Crawford and Qyntel Woods to push the lead to 65-60.
Shortly after that, Cassell was hit with a technical foul that was taken away. He jumped off the bench to scream at teammate Chris Wilcox after Wilcox was beaten by Channing Frye for an offensive rebound and basket. Referee Kevin Fehr apparently thought Cassell was yelling at Tom Washington, the official under the basket, and called the technical. Washington calmed down the irate Cassell by telling Fehr that he wasn’t the one being yelled at and had the technical removed.
With Rose, Crawford and Maurice Taylor, the Knicks had three starters who played at the University of Michigan. The Clippers have three players from Duke: Brand, Daniel Ewing and the injured Corey Maggette. … Knicks coach Larry Brown led the Clippers to consecutive playoff appearances from 1991-93.