Doc Rivers insists he does not stress out about the standings or speculate about N.B.A. playoff seeding. If he decides to look, he’ll be delighted with how high his Clippers have climbed.
Danilo Gallinari scored 26 points, his career-best ninth consecutive game with at least 20 points, and Los Angeles beat the Knicks, 124-113, at Madison Square Garden for its fifth straight victory.
Lou Williams had 29 points and Montrezl Harrell added 24 to provide their usual potent play off the bench for the Clippers, who are now alone in fifth place in the Western Conference. A team that once appeared to be fighting just to make the playoffs is a league-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.”
Emmanuel Mudiay had 26 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds for the Knicks (14-60), who dropped their fourth straight to secure the second 60-loss season in franchise history; they were 17-65 in 2014-15. The former Clippers center DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Gallinari, the Knicks’ first-round pick in 2008, made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4 minutes 12 seconds remaining to make it 106-104, and then hit two free throws before Williams made another 3 to push the lead 111-104 with 3:02 to go. The Clippers pulled away from there to win for the 10th time in 11 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.
The Knicks, who were without Dennis Smith Jr. (sore back), Noah Vonleh (sprained right ankle) and Allonzo Trier (strained left calf), then lost their past two lottery picks. 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.
“The first few minutes I just told them to wake the hell up,” Knicks Coach David Fizdale said, as his team gave up the game’s first 8 points. “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.”