LOS ANGELES (AP) -The New York Knicks were sorry to leave California, though happy to get away from Blake Griffin.
The Los Angeles Clippers' talented rookie had career highs of 44 points and seven assists while pulling down 15 rebounds. But Amare Stoudemire had 39 points and 11 rebounds, Danilo Gallinari scored 17 of his career high-tying 31 points in the fourth quarter, and the Knicks completed a three-game California sweep with a 124-115 victory on Saturday night against the team with the NBA's worst record.
``Athletically, I think we saw probably the best you can be - from both teams,' Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. ``Griffin had some dunks that you don't see very often. But we had Amare, Danilo and Raymond (Felton), and that was a little bit too much. Everybody contributed something, and that's how it has to be.'
Felton had 20 points, one night after scoring a career-high 35 against the Warriors. Wilson Chandler, the first player off the Knicks' bench, scored 10 points before fouling out with 3:37 left.
With center Chris Kaman missing his sixth straight game with a sprained left knee and point guard Baron Davis sidelined for the 10th time in 11 games with a swollen left knee, the Clippers were unable to contain Stoudemire and Felton.
But Griffin gave the crowd of 18,325 something worth remembering with 5:40 left in the third quarter - an in-your-face posterizing of Russian rookie Timofey Mozgov on a driving slam dunk in which Griffin balanced himself by putting his left hand on the right side of Mozgov's face in the air. The first overall pick in the 2009 draft completed the three-point play after Mozgov's face was called for a foul.
``Randy (Foye) passed the ball to me at the right time and Mozgov kind of helped me get up a little bit once I got on top of him,' Griffin said. ``I just tried to throw it in because I knew I couldn't get it to the rim.'
The play created a buzz that carried into the Knicks' dressing room.
``That was actually incredible,' Stoudemire said. ``That was a play that definitely sparked the crowd and sparked us. We weren't expecting that. I've had a few of those in my career, so I can understand the feeling he's going through right now. I've been in those shoes before.
``I remember when Blake was in college and he attended my skills academy camp. I definitely saw a lot of me in him then,' Stoudemire said. ``He's playing well for a rookie. This is his breakout game, and he's going to be very good.'
The Knicks, who ended a six-game losing streak with consecutive road wins over the Kings and Warriors, won three games in California on the same trip for the first time. The Golden State has had at least three NBA teams since the 1978-79 season, when the Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego and were renamed the Clippers.
``The Warriors beat us in New York, so we knew that was going to be a tough game for us,' Stoudemire said. ``We've lost to some other teams that were in the same categories as those three teams, so we knew this trip was going to be a challenge for us regardless. And we wanted to make sure we set a tone early.'
Stoudemire, who signed a five-year contract worth nearly $100 million in July after leaving the Phoenix Suns as a free agent, is averaging 26.9 points over his last seven games. The transition hasn't been easy for the five-time All-Star, who publicly questioned his teammates' heart following a home loss to Houston last Sunday.
``This was a fun game to play in, especially because of the fact that we won. It was like a video game,' Stoudemire said. ``There were very exciting plays on the court, but the positive from this is that we're on a three-game winning streak and our chemistry's now starting to come together. We showed how good we can be and what it takes to win, and we're showing winning qualities. We've just got to keep it going.'
Eric Gordon had 25 points for the Clippers (1-13), off to their worst start since opening the lockout-delayed 1999 season 0-17. They have dropped nine in a row under new coach Vinny Del Negro since beating Oklahoma City 107-92 - the team's longest skid since a 12-game drought two seasons ago.
The Knicks, who lost their first 10 games against the Clippers at Staples Center before ending that drought with a 113-107 win last April, led by as many as 14 midway through the third. The Clippers got as close as 113-108 on a spinning dunk by Griffin around Gallinari, but the Knicks pulled away again.
``I was just trying to help the team at a moment where the team needed me to help them,' Gallinari said. ``The fourth quarter is the most important part of the game, especially when you're playing a tight game. I was trying to read the defense and their defense was giving me that shot, so I was taking it.'
There was an enormous disparity at the foul line during the first 21 minutes. The Knicks were 14 for 16 at that point, while the Clippers' only free throw came on a three-point play by Gordon with 8:38 left in the second quarter. That imbalance, plus 13 turnovers by Los Angeles, helped the Knicks take a 58-53 halftime lead.
New York finished 43 for 51 on free throws and the Clippers were 22 for 29.
``We were smart and were using our experience to read the defense and get to the foul line, and we did a good job of it,' Gallinari said. ``We have a lot of talent and a lot of experience. We were trying to play our game. Raymond was controlling things, and we were following him and following Amare.'
NOTES: The Knicks began this four-game trip with a loss at Denver. ... None of the teams the Knicks have beaten - Toronto, Chicago, Washington, Sacramento, Golden State and the Clippers - finished above .500 last season. Their combined record was 187-305. ... The Knicks have had nine straight losing seasons since going 48-34 in 2000-01. The only franchises with longer streaks that didn't include the lockout-shortened '99 campaign were the Kansas City-Sacramento Kings (15) and the San Diego-L.A. Clippers (12).
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved