LOS ANGELES — Despite a win over the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers acknowledged his club is struggling. However, Rivers believes the Clippers will solve their problems.
“I think this team believes when right, and playing right, we can play with anybody, but we have not been a consistent team this year,” Rivers said. “And that’s probably, from a coaching standpoint, the thing that bothers me the most.”
The Clippers (41-29) will try to ease their frustrations when they play the New York Knicks on Monday at Staples Center.
Los Angeles, which is 6-8 since the All-Star break, ended a three-game losing streak with a 108-78 romp over the Cavaliers at Staples. They kept the Clippers a half-game ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the fifth seed in the Western Conference. The Memphis Grizzlies are a game back of the Clippers.
The Cavaliers didn’t play LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love against the Clippers. Irving left Thursday’s win over the Utah Jazz with a sore knee, while Love played for the first time in a month since undergoing knee surgery.
Despite their absences, the Clippers, who are 6-8 since the All-Star break, got off to a slow start. They trailed 16-14 after one period before outscoring the Cavaliers 33-15 in the second quarter for a 47-31 halftime lead. The Cavaliers didn’t threaten again, allowing Rivers to rest his starters in the fourth quarter.
“I liked our defensive spirit and our (talking),” said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who scored a game-high 23 points with eight rebounds in three quarters. “Even if we didn’t get a stop, I thought our talk was great. I could hear who the low man was every single time.”
The Clippers’ recent woes don’t compare to those of the Knicks. Against New York, Los Angeles has won nine in a row, including the last four meetings at home. Griffin collected 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a 119-115 Clippers win against the Knicks on Feb. 8 at Madison Square Garden.
The Clippers have won by an average of 16 points per game during their streak.
New York (27-42) is coming off a 121-110 loss Thursday at the Garden to the lowly Brooklyn Nets, who own the worst mark in the NBA. It was the Knicks’ fourth defeat in five games and the second time they fell to the Nets in the past week.
With the result, the Knicks clinched their fourth consecutive losing season.
“Every year you come in with the mindset and the hope of being successful and having a good year, having a good team and having faith in the group of guys you have around you,” Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony told Newsday. “This year it’s a little disappointing due to the talent that we have. But yeah, it’s more difficult this season than it has been in the past.”
Forward/center Kristaps Porzingis sat out the setback to the Nets with a thigh bruise, but he is expected to play against the Clippers, according to Newsday. Porzingis, who sustained the injury Tuesday in a win over the Indiana Pacers, practiced for the first time Sunday.
Porzingis is averaging 18 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, second on the Knicks in scoring to Anthony, who is putting up 22.9 points.