These aren't the same old Los Angeles Clippers, although at times they play like it.
"I didn't see the game slipping away, like we were going to lose," Tyrone Nesby said. "We just hit a slump, just like any other team. This ain't like last year's team. We fight till the end."
Lamar Odom, who entered the game leading all rookies with a 19.4 scoring average, added 24 points for the Clippers. He also made a spectacular block on Latrell Sprewell's fast-break layup with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
"That was big-time," Odom said. "I had just made a bad play down at the other end and turned it over, so I just wanted to try and make up for it. I think it hit the glass first, but don't say anything."
Sprewell, who led the Knicks with 32 points, came away with a good first impression of Odom.
"He's really good," Sprewell said. "He's tall, handles the ball well and he shoots pretty good. I figure his jump shot is going to get even better as he gets more experience."
"We're 6-7 and going nowhere," coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "That's why I'm going to make changes. It's beyond disappointing. This is bad, and it's been bad from day one."
The Knicks, who never led after Kurt Thomas' opening basket, closed to 85-82 when Sprewell's 18-footer capped a 9-0 spurt with 8:37 left. But Nesby hit a 3-pointer 40 seconds later to give the Clippers a 94-89 lead with 4:19 remaining.
Charlie Ward sank two free throws and made a 3-pointer to pull the Knicks within 98-95 with 57 seconds to go. But Thomas missed two free throws with 10 seconds left and Sprewell misfired on a 3-point attempt with four seconds to go.
Eric Piatkowski then sank two free throws at the other end, helping end the Clippers' five-game losing streak against the Knicks.
Nesby, who missed the previous two games due to the birth of his daughter, scored 22 points before fouling out with 1:31 remaining.
The Clippers led 60-32 in the second quarter before Sprewell helped narrow the gap to 65-49 with 13 points in the final 3 1-2 minutes of the half. The Knicks closed to 78-72 with a 12-0 run, capped by Allan Houston's jumper with 2:40 left in the third.
"There's definitely no excuse for the way we came out tonight and the way we played defense," Sprewell said. "We shouldn't have been in a hole that deep in the first place."
Camby, limited to 19 minutes on Saturday against Golden State because of tendinitis in his left knee, decided to rest in the finale of a 2-3 road trip. Johnson was back in New York for an examination on his back ailment, which was diagnosed as a pinched nerve.
"It doesn't matter. A win is a win," Nesby said. "Nobody felt sorry for us if our main man was hurting, so we don't feel sorry for them.".
The injuries to Johnson and Camby forced Van Gundy to start Andrew Lang on Michael Olowokandi and Thomas on Brian Skinner. The Knicks got the early advantage on both matchups, as Olowokandi was benched with two fouls after just 30 seconds of play and Thomas made his first four shots.
But the Clippers responded with their highest-scoring quarter of the season. Anderson scored 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting and Odom hit a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to give Los Angeles a 39-24 lead and cap a 13-4 run.
Nesby took over for Anderson in the second quarter and scored 14 points. He provided all the Clippers' offense in a 10-2 spurt including a 3-pointer that capped the rally and gave Los Angeles a 60-32 cushion with 4:16 left in the half.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed