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Shorthanded Knicks lose to Clippers, fall to 0-4 on West trip

J.R. Smith battles with Los Angeles Clippers guard

J.R. Smith battles with Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and forward Blake Griffin (32) in the first half of a game in Los Angeles. (March 17, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

LOS ANGELES -- The shorthanded Knicks are in rough shape physically, and as the losses mount, they're starting to fall apart mentally, too.

After the Knicks fell to the Clippers, 93-80, on Sunday, losing for the fourth straight game to match their season-worst streak, J.R. Smith said something has to change or they will be home by the end of April.

"It's starting to take a toll on me mentally, losing like this after the type of team we were at the beginning of the year," Smith said. "We just have to keep playing through it."

Smith believes the Knicks, who were without Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler for the second straight game, can turn it around in the final 18 games and return to the team they were earlier.

"At this point, we really don't have a choice," he said. "If we keep playing like this, we're looking at an early exit in the playoffs or we got to start fighting. We need some help. We've got to help each other."

The Knicks hope help comes in the form of Anthony and Chandler, but they're not sure when they'll return from their knee injuries. Chandler also has a strained neck muscle.

Both are questionable for Monday night when the Knicks close out this five-game trip in Utah looking for their first win. They lost the first four games by an average of 20 points.

The Knicks (38-26) were in danger of falling into a virtual tie with the Nets for first place in the Atlantic Division, but when the Nets (38-28) lost to the Hawks last night, the Knicks maintained their one-game lead.

Playing without their two All-Stars and Amar'e Stoudemire (knee surgery), the Knicks managed to hang with the Clippers for a little more than a half. But eventually the Clippers' talent and athleticism were too much.

The third quarter became a Blake Griffin highlight show. He had four dunks, including a vicious and demoralizing right-handed tomahawk of a Chris Paul lob.

"We have to figure out how to win some games without that $200 million sitting on the bench," Smith said.

The Knicks showed some fight in this game, though. They trailed by 19 with 8:10 left and got within 89-80 with 1:56 to go but didn't score after that.

"We're going to compete every night," Kenyon Martin said. "Guys have pride. This team is not made of one guy or two guys."

Smith led the Knicks with 17 points but shot 4-for-20 and was 1-for-7 from three-point range. After forcing shots throughout the game, he passed up some shots down the stretch. Raymond Felton added 16 points and nine assists and Chris Copeland had 13 points.

Paul had 20 points and eight assists to pace the Clippers. Caron Butler added 14 points and Griffin finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The game got away in the third quarter. The Clippers went on an 18-6 run and led 62-47 after Griffin's ferocious dunk. Later, they scored seven unanswered and went ahead 72-53 with 1:17 left after Paul's driving layup. The Knicks cut it to 12 at the end of the third but started the fourth 1-for-7 and fell behind by 19 again.

Now it's on to Utah and the Knicks' last hope for a win on the trip. "At this point we've got to at least try to get one and feel good about ourselves a little bit," Smith said. "After this 0-and-4 right now we've got to find out how to get one win on the road trip."

New York Sports