Falling in the 4th
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New York @ Los Angeles
79 - 84
Record: 6-12
Stephon Marbury fouled by Walter McCarthy (AP Photo)
Stephon Marbury fouled by Walter McCarthy (AP Photo)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers turned up the defense in the fourth quarter and kept the New York Knicks 0-for-Staples Center against them.

Elton Brand had 24 points and 11 rebounds, Cuttino Mobley scored eight of his 24 points in the final 2 minutes and the Clippers beat the Knicks 84-79 on Wednesday night.

Eddy Curry had 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who led 50-39 at halftime. They have lost all seven games they have played against the Clippers in their current home, after winning their final five visits to the L.A. Sports Arena. Five of New York's 12 losses this season have been by five points or less.

Sam Cassell added 16 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, who lead the Pacific Division with a 13-5 record.

"That team is playing great, and I don't think it's a fluke," Knicks coach Larry Brown said. "I reminded our guys during our shootaround that this is not the Clippers that we remembered from the past. They're a much different club, and they want to win. And they've got a great opportunity, because the Lakers aren't as dominating as they were.

"This is a great building to play in, and there's a lot of Clipper fans. So I think it's a good thing for the league."

The Knicks shot 36.5 percent for the game and did not make a field goal over the final 3:40. They used their 12th different starting lineup -- four more than all last season.

Stephon Marbury, the only player to start all 18 games for New York, had 12 points and two assists in 42 minutes and finished 3-for-16 from the field after missing his first five shots. He scored a season-low four points the last time he played at Staples Center on Nov. 16 in a five-point loss to the Lakers.

The Clippers, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half, took a 72-71 lead when Cassell made one of two free throws with 3:02 remaining. Quinton Ross added an 18-foot jumper from the left of the key and Mobley followed with a 3-pointer for a 77-71 lead with 1:51 to play. Mobley finished 6-for-16 from the field after missing seven of his first eight shots.

"We had this game pretty much the whole time, but we gave it away," Jamal Crawford said. "The guys were trying to get to the hole and put pressure on their defense, but tonight the shots weren't falling for whatever reason and they got every loose ball and every big rebound."

Clippers center Chris Kaman had a tough time defending Curry in the paint during the first three quarters, and missed his first six shots at the other end of the court. But in the fourth quarter, he blocked a layup by the Knicks' center and that led to a layup by Kaman that ended his shooting drought. It also capped a 9-0 run that reduced a 10-point deficit to 63-62 with 9:55 left.

"Eddy Curry was just scoring at will in the first half, and we weren't doing a good job on him -- especially myself," Kaman said. "But we played him a lot better in the second half. We weren't ready in the first half. Some guys come ready. But when the whole team doesn't, it hurts you. And that's what happened. But these guys have the experience and knowledge to know what to do in late situations."

Corey Maggette, the Clippers' second-leading scorer, was sidelined by a sprained left foot. James Singleton, an undrafted free agent, made his first NBA start at Maggette's small forward spot and played 16 minutes without scoring.

Both teams took the court with Knicks forward Quentin Richardson on their minds. Richardson, who spent his first four NBA seasons with the Clippers, missed his second game since the fatal shooting of his brother, 31-year-old Lee Richardson, Jr. on Monday during a robbery outside the family's Chicago home. It was the second such tragedy for Richardson, whose brother Bernard also was gunned down in 1992 at age 23.

"It's a sad situation," Brand said. "We all send our deepest condolences to Quentin. We knew Lee. We met him numerous times. When Quentin played with the Clippers, Lee was at almost every home game and we'd see him after the games. He was a good guy. Something like this makes us all appreciate life and the family and friends we have."

Brown, who spoke to Richardson on the phone Wednesday morning, said the team might try to stop in Chicago on the way home after Friday night's game at Phoenix to attend Saturday's funeral. But those plans weren't finalized.

"This isn't the first tragedy he's faced. Quentin's gone through a lot," Brown said. "It makes games seem kind of insignificant when you go through things like that, but he's doing the best he can. "I just told Quentin to straighten everything out and come back when he thinks he's ready. He wants to get back quickly, but it's up to him."

Game notes:
Friday will mark the 38th anniversary of Bill Bradley's NBA debut with the Knicks. He would help them win two championships before ending up in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and eventually the U.S. Senate. ... The Knicks are 135-192 since Jeff Van Gundy resigned as head coach four years ago Thursday. ... Brown coached the Clippers to playoff berths in 1992 and 1993. The only other time they made it to the postseason since moving to Los Angeles was in 1997, under Bill Fitch.

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