LOS ANGELES (AP) Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers just want to close out the regular season on a roll. Do that, and they may reach their other goal – the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
That would get them homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and they got a step closer Monday night with a 114-105 victory over the New York Knicks.
The Clippers used an explosive third quarter, outscoring the Knicks 34-19 to build a 25-point lead. Their starters did not play in the fourth quarter.
With the victory, the Clippers pulled within one game of Utah for fourth place with 11 games to play.
”It’s important,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. ”I would love it. But I’m not going to focus on it.
”I’m going to try and get this team better each game, and then at the end, we’ll see where we’re at.”
The Clippers looked like a team that could accomplish what it wanted against the Knicks, particularly in the third quarter. They ran off 11 consecutive points during the decisive quarter.
Griffin led the offense with 30 point in 31 minutes. DeAndre Jordan added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Chris Paul had 13 assists and 13 points.
”That start of the third quarter really hurt us,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said.
The Knicks got 18 points from each of Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose, and Carmelo Anthony had 16 points. Porzingis added 11 rebounds.
Using bench players alongside Porzingis, the Knicks cut the Clippers lead down to eight points with 1:33 to play and even to seven points in the last 15.8 seconds.
Rivers, however, never made a move to return his starters and stayed with his reserves.
”Win it or lose it, that was my intention,” Rivers said.
The Clippers finished with six players scoring in double-figures. J.J. Reddick had 13 points, and reserves Austin Rivers 17 points and Jamal Crawford 14 points.
Knicks: Have vanished from the playoff picture. Once 16-13, the Knicks are 11-30 over their last 41 games and have lost seven of nine. … Porzingis returned to the lineup after missing one game with a thigh injury.
Clippers: Have gone with Luc Mbah A Moute as their small forward all season, though he gets the playing time of a reserve. He has started 64 of 69 games, yet is averaging only 22.9 minutes per game.
Rivers said he had yet to see NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s memo to teams threatening ”significant penalties” if they continued to rest players in primetime games. Said Rivers: ”I haven’t read it yet. At the end of the day, each team is going to do what it needs to. It’s not a perfect league.”
The Knicks made the final score more respectable because they outscored the Lakers 33-17 in the final quarter, using reserves along with Porzingis.
”Our second team plays hard and they’re willing to hit the open guy,” Hornacek said. ”They just move really well. When the ball moves like that, our second unit is able to have some success.”
Griffin went 12 of 19 from the field, including a somewhat unlikely 3 of 4 on 3-pointers.
”When Blake is aggressive like that, it’s great for us,” Paul said. ”Everybody is sharing the ball and feeding off his energy.”
Knicks: Travel to Salt Lake City to meet the Jazz on Wednesday. Utah walloped the Knicks in New York in their only previous meeting, 94-79.
Clippers: Are the designated visitor Tuesday in matchup against the Lakers at Staples Center. The teams have split their first two meetings.