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New York picks up fourth defeat in six games

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The New York Knicks spent too much time
watching the out-of-town scoreboard, and not enough time paying
attention to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Elton Brand scored 29 points in his third game off the injured
list, and Andre Miller scored seven of his 19 points in the final
3:16 as the Clippers put the Knicks one step closer to elimination
from the playoff picture with a 109-98 victory Saturday night.

"We were aware, and that's what's even more disappointing,''
New York guard Allan Houston said. "Every time we can really make
up some ground, we just don't do it. It's inexplicable, how we can
play like we did in the first two games of this trip and then don't
tonight.

"It's frustrating. I mean, I can imagine the people who watch
us and how frustrated they can be. You try not to look in the past
and dwell on all those games you could have made up -- especially
this one. The bottom line is that we didn't do what was necessary,
so we are in the position we're in for a reason."

New York's fourth defeat in six games, coupled with Milwaukee's
overtime loss at Chicago, left the Knicks one loss or one Milwaukee
victory away from missing the postseason for the second straight
season. The last time that happened was from 1985 to 1987 -- Hubie
Brown's last three seasons as coach of New York.

The Knicks' next game is Tuesday night against Atlanta at
Madison Square Garden. Milwaukee's next game is Wednesday night at
home against the Clippers.

"Considering how many close games we've lost, it's
disappointing that we're not in," Latrell Sprewell said. "We
could easily be at 40-45 wins. But the bottom line is, we weren't
good enough in a lot of those games to finish down the stretch like
we were supposed to. We just have to learn from it and do better
next year."

Sprewell led the Knicks with 29 points, and Clarence
Weatherspoon had 12 points and 14 rebounds. Houston, returning to
Staples Center for the first time since scoring a career-high 53
points against the NBA champion Lakers on Feb. 16, shot 3-for-16
and finished with eight points in 37 minutes.

"I didn't really get to the spots I wanted to get to," Houston
said. "They did a good job. A lot of times, I've just been able to
get going sooner or later, but I just was never able to do it
tonight."

Kurt Thomas, whose clutch block on John Stockton's 18-footer at
the final buzzer Friday night at Utah preserved an overtime victory
for the Knicks, fouled out with 2 minutes left and finished with
four points in 18 minutes.

Trailing by six with 7 minutes to play, the Knicks closed to
92-91 with Houston's 18-footer and Charlie Ward's 3-pointer _ one
of 21 by New York in 34 attempts. But the Clippers put the game out
of reach with a 13-5 run, capped by a 16-footer by Miller that gave
them a 105-96 cushion with 42 seconds left.

"We definitely gave them too many layups," Sprewell said. "We
could have done a better job getting back on defense. That's been
our biggest problem."

Los Angeles extended a five-point lead to 75-64 -- its largest of
the game -- with layups by Brand and Andre Miller and a reverse dunk
by Brand with 5:37 left in the third quarter. But the Clippers'
lead was whittled to 83-80 by the end of the period as Travis
Knight's tip-in capped a 7-2 spurt by New York.

The Clippers outscored New York 19-9 over the last 7 minutes of
the second quarter and led 54-49 at halftime. Brand got them going
with a 17-point first quarter that included four blocks by center
Sean Rooks -- who had no more than three in any of his other 64
games this season.

"I really wanted to get off to a good start and finish
everything around the rim," Brand said.

The most spectacular block of the game was by Clippers forward
Lamar Odom, who skied so high on an attempted layup by Shandon
Anderson in the final two minutes of the second quarter, he nearly
caught the ball.

Sprewell, who had a season-high 38 points against the Clippers
in a 105-92 win at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 4, scored 12
points in the first 5 minutes, and New York used a 12-2 run late
in the quarter to take a 32-27 lead into the second.

Game notes
Miller and Knicks C Michael Doleac were college teammates
for three seasons at Utah, including 1997-98, when the Utes went to
the NCAA championship game before losing to Kentucky. ... Chaney's
record with the Knicks is 54-86. His record with the Clippers was
53-132. ... Howard Eisley scored 12 points, becoming the first
Knicks guard with at least 700 points and 400 assists in the same
season since Derek Harper in 1994-95. ... The Knicks have lost all
four times they're played the Clippers at Staples Center, after
beating them in each of their last five visits to the L.A. Sports
Arena.