Listless Knicks welcome struggling Clippers to MSG

NEW YORK — The New York Knicks longest homestand of the season hasn’t started well. They have dropped the first two games of the five-game set, losing by a combined score of 21 points, and face a tough task on Wednesday when the Los Angeles Clippers (31-21) visit Madison Square Garden.

Coach Jeff Hornacek’s frustration finally boiled over after New York (22-31) dropped a 121-107 decision to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, their 14th loss in the last 20 outings.

“You have to play for some pride,” Hornacek said. “If you come out there and just play basketball, you’re on the wrong level. These teams come in – it’s New York. You don’t match their effort and energy, you’re not going to win. Right from the start, 1/8the Lakers 3/8 out-hustled us. They got offensive rebounds, got long balls that bounded around the free-throw line. They got them all.

“We can continue to punish them (Knicks), get more upset at them or give them positive talk. But we got to do it in practice. They won’t like it, but maybe it will get them going, a good, hard practice. I don’t care if we have a game the day after 1/8against the Clippers 3/8.”

Reserve guard Brandon Jennings acknowledged his coach’s displeasure. At one point on Monday, the Knicks fell behind 27 points to a Lakers team that hadn’t won on the road since Dec. 20.

“We all make millions of dollars playing this game, so the least we can do is go out there and play hard every night,” Jennings said.

“We got to go out there and fight. That was embarrassing. To get embarrassed like that in front of the home crowd, we just got to play with effort, like it means something.”

New York’s defensive struggles have been the culprit all season. The Knicks have allowed at least 30 points in two quarters in 26 of their 53 games and have given up 108.8 points an outing, ranking them 25th in the league.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers remains more optimistic than Hornacek, even though Los Angeles has lost seven of its last nine games after a 118-109 setback to the Toronto Raptors on Monday.

“I swear to everyone the sky is not falling,” Rivers proclaimed.

Rivers has good reason to feel that way. His star forward Blake Griffin, in just his sixth game since minor knee surgery that had him sidelined for 20 games, posted his fifth career triple-double, and first of the season, with 26 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high-tying 11 assists on Monday.

Griffin was 2-for-3 from behind the arc against the Raptors, marking the sixth time in his career and first time this season he hit multiple 3-pointers in a game. He said he received a text message from Rivers before the Raptors game encouraging him to shoot more from long distance

“I want you start taking more 3s,” Griffin recalled the text stating. “I took it literally.”

Jamal Crawford became just the sixth player to amass 2,000 3-pointers when he hit for two 3s on Monday. The 36-year-old Clippers guard, who has been mentioned in trade talks for the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, also passed Eddie Johnson for No. 2 all-time in bench scoring and Magic Johnson for No. 74 in all-time scoring (17,712).

The Clippers have won the last eight meetings with the Knicks.