Brand, Clippers Battle Back to Top Knicks
L.A. Clippers 84, New York 79
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 7 (Ticker) -- Elton Brand and Sam Cassell paced the Los Angeles Clippers to another hard-fought win.
Brand collected 24 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks while Cassell added 16 points and 11 assists as the Clippers erased an 11-point halftime deficit en route to an 84-79 victory over the New York Knicks.
"Overall, our guys played well defensively, and it shows our guys what we've been preaching," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. said. "Defense is what's going to win ballgames."
With star swingman Corey Maggette sidelined with a foot injury, the Clippers delivered a strong defensive effort to scratch out a hard-earned victory. Los Angeles trailed, 63-55, after three quarters, but held New York to just 4-for-20 from the floor in the final period.
"That first half, we were awful," Dunleavy said. "The second half, the defense really tightened up."
"We kept trying to go to the hole, for the most part, but you have to give them credit," Knicks coach Larry Brown said of the Clippers' effort. "Elton Brand had six blocks, they went after shots and we just couldn't make a shot when we needed to."
At 13-5, Los Angeles remains in first place in the Pacific Division. The Clippers seem primed to finish the season with a winning record for the first time since the 1991-92 campaign, when Brown guided the team to a 23-12 record over the final two months.
Los Angeles trailed until late in the fourth quarter, when Cassell and Mobley keyed a 15-8 run over the final four minutes.
"These are the games last year where we didn't finish in the last five minutes of the game," Clippers center Chris Kaman said. "We fought well at the end, made our free throws, made three or four good defensive stops, got rebounds and just played well."
Cassell made 1-of-2 free throws with three minutes left to snap a 71-71 tie. Defensive specialist Quinton Ross knocked down a jumper 40 seconds later to give the Clippers a 74-71 lead.
After Anfernee Hardaway missed an open jumper on New York's ensuing possession, Cassell penetrated along the right side before dishing to Mobley, who drilled a wide-open 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:51 left to give Los Angeles breathing room.
"Sam found me, and that is the reason that we came here - to hit big shots," said Mobley, who knocked down three 3-pointers and went 9-of-11 from the free-throw line. "We have to ride our horse though, and Elton is our horse."
Eddy Curry collected 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who scored just 29 points in the second half and shot 21 percent (7-for-34) after the break.
"We came on the road and tried to control the tempo, but when you go into the halfcourt set, you have to make some shots," Brown said. "We had some defensive breakdowns, but I don't think we fell apart defensively."
New York owned a 50-39 halftime lead thanks largely in part to Curry, who collected 17 points and seven rebounds before the break.
However, Los Angeles got physical with Curry in the second half by forcing New York's 6-11 center out of the paint.
"In the second half, we got Eddy Curry out of the low box, where he was posting up so deep in the first half," Brand said.
When Curry did attack the basket in the second half, the Clippers simply sent him to the line with hard fouls. Curry responded with a 6-of-13 performance from the stripe.
As bad as Curry was from the line, Stephon Marbury was even worse from the floor. The mercurial point guard finished with 12 points on 3-of-16 shooting for New York, which has lost four of its last six.