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Knicks On Fire--Blow By Clippers


Latrell Sprewell is scoring points in bunches again, even if he's not totally happy coming off the bench.

"If that's what it's going to be, then I have to live with that, I guess," Sprewell said after scoring 18 of his season-high 31 points in the second quarter of the Knicks' 113-89 victory Tuesday night over the Los Angeles Clippers.

It was the second straight night that Sprewell had a season-high point total, and it was the third victory in three nights for the Knicks as they became the fifth NBA team to sweep a back-to-back-to-back set.

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  • "It feels good, obviously," said Sprewell, who has played in eight games since recovering from a stress fracture of his foot. "I feel a lot more relaxed and comfortable. It's fun when you're winning. Everything seems to come easy and I just want to continue to do that."

    Sprewell will continue to come off the bench, a role coach Jeff Van Gundy believes suits his strengths perfectly.

    "I like it because I think it gives our team balance. We don't start with all our scorers on the floor," said Van Gundy, who is aware that Sprewell would prefer to return to the starting lineup. "You ask anybody, they'd all like to start and they'd all like to finish. At least he's one for two."

    Allan Houston added 24 points and Larry Johnson had 20 as the Knicks, who scored the first 14 points of the game, had three players reach 20 points for the second night in a row. They are 3-0 since reports surfaced that Jef Van Gundy's job was in jeopardy.

    Lamond Murray and Maurice Taylor had 18 points apiece for the Clippers, who dropped to 1-20.

    New York wasted no time taking control, making its first four shots from 3-point range -- two by Johnson and one each by Houston and Charlie Ward. Johnson then scored inside to make it 14-0, and the lead increased to 19-2 a little more than five minutes into the game.

    "We just weren't playing defense," Clippers coach Chris Ford said. "The guys that started that game just came out not ready to play basketball."

    The Clippers pulled to 31-21 by the end of the first, but Sprewell kept the Knicks comfortably ahead through the second quarter by scoring with ease against Los Angeles' disinterested defense.

    Sprewell had five free throws, a pair of layups, two mid-range jumpers, a 21-footer and a 3-pointer in the second quarter, shooting 6-for-11 while playing the entire period as the featured player in the Knicks' offense.

    Sprewell, coming off a season-high 28-point performance against Milwaukee on Monday and a 16-point outing Sunday against Charlotte, finished 11-for-17 from the field and increased his scoring average from 14.9 to 16.5.

    "What I like is he's making plays for teammates without being tentative," Van Gundy said. "He's aggressive and disciplined, getting his own shot and creating shots for others."

    After pulling within 10 after one period, Los Angeles had trouble getting its deficit below double digits the rest of the way. It was 59-42 at halftime, 81-70 entering the fourth and 105-79 by the time Van Gundy emptied his bench with 4:09 left.

    The Knicks shot a season-high 56 percent from the field and improved to 6-0 when shooting 50 percent or better. They are 4-0 when scoring 100 or more points.

    "They feel good about themselves right now, and rightly so because they've played three excellent games in a row," Van Gundy said. "It's almost like we wish we could play again tomorrow."

    Notes:

    • Patrick Ewing missed his fifth consecutive game with Achilles' tendinitis. Chris Dudley started in his place and got into foul trouble, leading to Herb Williams playing a season-high 15 minutes and posting season-highs rebounds (2) and blocks (1). He did not score.
    • Dudley went 2-for-2 from the foul line for the second consecutive game.
    • Miami, Milwaukee, Portland and Utah are the other teams to sweep three games in three nights, and the Sacramento Kings were trying to become the sixth later Tuesdy night. There have been 33 sets of three games in three nights leaguewide this season.
    • The Knicks have beaten the Clippers five straight times and 22 of the last 25.

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