NEW YORK -- Some of the loudest cheers of the season roared through Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
Of course, they weren't for the Knicks. Not the way they played in the second half.
In a matchup of teams who entered with 14 wins, the Clippers seized control by outscoring the Knicks 52-34 in the second half. Not even a lengthy standing ovation given three members of the Super Bowl champion Giants following the third quarter could spark the Knicks, who by then had wasted the lead they built during an excellent first 24 minutes by getting outscored 28-14 in the third.
"They're a struggling team just like we are," Clippers center Chris Kaman said. "It's like a toilet bowl game or a dust bowl game. Two bottom teams fighting."
Kaman, who like Maggette had missed the last four games with the flu, added 15 points and nine rebounds as Los Angeles improved to 1-2 on its seven-game road trip. Cuttino Mobley had 14 points as the Clippers handed the Knicks their sixth straight loss.
Kaman had missed five in a row total, the first with a left shin contusion.
The Clippers hadn't completely shaken the flu bug. They were led by assistant coach Kim Hughes, with Mike Dunleavy staying behind at the team hotel because he was sick.
Eddy Curry led the Knicks with 19 points -- just three in the second half. Jamal Crawford scored 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter for the Knicks, who returned home from an 0-5 road trip where they blew second-half leads in four of the games. They were up 11 in the second half this time but finished with 20 turnovers that led to 25 points.
"In the second half when the ball stops moving, then it's tough to get points on the board," Knicks forward David Lee said. "When points don't get scored, then you almost have to get a stop every time down the floor to win the game."
The highlight for New York fans had nothing to do with basketball. Giants defensive backs Sam Madison, R.W. McQuarters and Kevin Dockery, who had arrived back home with the rest of the Super Bowl champions earlier Monday from Arizona, came onto the court and received a standing ovation that lasted throughout the break between the third and fourth quarters.
The Knicks, particularly Crawford, seemed sparked by the rare cheers. He was 1-for-10 until then, then heated up and hit a jumper that cut the Clippers' lead to 91-89 with 3:56 to play. Josh Powell then made consecutive buckets, and the Knicks never got closer than four again.
The Knicks shot 64 percent in the first half but ran out of offense in the second. They were playing without key reserve Nate Robinson, who had a bruised left quadriceps, then lost starting forward Quentin Richardson, who sprained his right ankle late in the first half after scoring 14 points in 16 minutes.
"I thought when Richardson went down it really took away a lot of our outside shooting and without having Robinson or Richardson in the game we had no threat," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "I thought our bigs had it going pretty good inside, but we're down a lot of perimeter players right now and they did a good job of just packing it in and we didn't have enough outside shooting to really keep the defense honest."
Curry's basket gave the Knicks an 11-points early in the third, but Quinton Ross and Sam Cassell combined for nine straight points to trigger a 20-4 run that gave the Clippers a 75-70 lead after Al Thornton's acrobatic three-point play with 1:12 remaining in the period. Los Angeles led 79-74 after three.
Los Angeles led 31-30 after one quarter, even though the Knicks shot 61 percent in the period. The Knicks scored 12 straight points -- all with leading scorer Crawford getting a break -- to open a 49-36 advantage halfway through the second quarter.
"I thought we were in big trouble. But it's a long game," Hughes said. "You can't quit on guys and I thought our philosophy of how we should guard them was good. We just weren't doing what we should be doing."
Zach Randolph made a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to give New York a 60-51 lead at the break. The only bad news in the half was the loss of Richardson, who was off to a strong start against his former team before landing on Maggette's foot late in the half and leaving with a sprained right ankle.
- The Clippers' Tim Thomas, a former Knicks forward, didn't play in the second half after having back spasms at halftime.
- X-rays on Richardson's ankle were negative.
- With Staples Center preparing to host the Grammy Awards, both the Clippers and Lakers are on long road trips -- and both spent Monday in New York. The Lakers practiced across town for their game at New Jersey on Tuesday.