NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Doc Rivers insists he doesn’t stress about the standings or speculate about seeding.
If he decides to look Sunday, he’ll be delighted with how high his Clippers have climbed.
Danilo Gallinari scored 26 points to extend the best scoring streak of his career, and Los Angeles beat the New York Knicks 124-113 for its fifth straight victory.
Lou Williams had 29 points and fellow reserve Montrezl Harrell added 24 to provide their usual potent play off the bench for the Clippers, who moved into sole possession of fifth place in the Western Conference.
A team that once appeared to be fighting just to make the playoffs is an NBA-best 14-4 since Feb. 9, positioning itself to avoid a powerhouse such as Golden State in the first round.
“We’re ready to play whoever we end up playing,” Rivers said. “In the meantime, let’s just keep winning games and everything will take care of itself.”
Gallinari made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:12 remaining to make it 106-104, then hit a pair of free throws before Williams made another 3 to push it to 111-104 with 3:02 to go. The Clippers then pulled away from there to win for the 10th time in 11 games.
Gallinari, the Knicks’ first-round pick in 2008, has scored 20 or more in his past nine games.
“The last quarter our intensity went up, our defense was better and we were able to make some clutch plays at the end,” Gallinari said.
Emmanuel Mudiay had 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Knicks (14-60), who dropped their fourth straight to secure the second 60-loss season in franchise history. Former Clippers center DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Already without a couple of injured starters, the Knicks lost their past two lottery picks during the game. Kevin Knox sat out the second half with a sprained right ankle and Frank Ntilikina missed it because of a sore groin. Ntilikina had just returned Friday from a groin injury that had sidelined him nearly two months.
Still, the Knicks battled back from double-digit deficits in both halves before the Clippers’ finishing surge.
Knicks coach David Fizdale said the focus for the Knicks was getting off to better starts than they had recently, and it appeared they were on their way to failing that mission when the Clippers bolted to an 8-0 lead.
But they cut it to 29-24 after one quarter, and after Los Angeles pushed the lead to 14 in the second on Harrell’s follow shot, surged into the lead before the Clippers took a 60-59 edge into the half.
“The first few minutes I just told them to wake the hell up,” Fizdale said. “We were still in bed those first couple of minutes. And then the final four, we really had four defensive breakdowns and they capitalized on each one of them.”
Clippers: Starting F Landry Shamet limped off early in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. … Patrick Beverley scored 12 points.
Knicks: New York remained without Dennis Smith Jr. (sore back), Noah Vonleh (sprained right ankle) and Allonzo Trier (strained left calf). … New York had lost its past three games by 36, 21 and 18 points.
The Clippers were the third straight West Coast team with a noon tip for a weekend game at Madison Square Garden. Sacramento won here on March 9 when it was opening a road trip and the Lakers lost on March 17. Rivers brought up the difficulty of the start time for his team even before taking any questions, and was asked if it’s unfair to make a team play at what feels like 9 a.m.
“Yeah, it is unfair,” he said. “But who cares, we’re going to show up and we have to play.”
Jordan came in shooting 70 percent this season on free throws, a remarkable improvement after he shot under 45 percent during his 10 seasons in Los Angeles and teams would sometimes foul him intentionally.
“I didn’t teach him well enough, clearly,” Rivers said, praising Jordan’s improvement but joking that “I’ve already told him we’re fouling him the first four times” because they didn’t believe he could be as good as his stats say.
Clippers: Visit Minnesota on Tuesday.
Knicks: Host Toronto on Thursday.
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