Failure to reach the playoffs has become synonymous with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers. The Knicks are planning to do something about it this summer, and David Lee is showing he can play a major role in helping turn the franchise around.
Fresh off his first career triple-double, Lee will try to help the Knicks close out a rough five-game road trip on a positive note Sunday night by beating the Clippers in Los Angeles for the first time in more than 12 years.
New York (26-49) will miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season -- the second-longest stretch in franchise history. The Knicks have reached the postseason once in nine seasons.
Meanwhile, the Clippers (27-49) have failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season and 12th time in 13.
The Knicks appear to have a plan to end their playoff drought, but it won't take effect until this summer and results may not be seen for more than a year. They're expected to go on a spending spree with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh topping the list of highly-coveted free agents.
New York has cleared enough salary-cap space to sign two high profile players, but Lee is proving he can be an integral part of the rebuilding process. The center has been one of the few bright spots this season, leading the team with career-high averages of 20.3 points and 11.9 rebounds.
On Friday, Lee matched his career-high of 37 points, pulled down 20 rebounds and had 10 assists in a 128-117 loss at Golden State.
He became the first player with at least 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a game since the Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar against the Warriors on March 5, 1976, but Lee was not happy.
"It's about getting wins, even at this juncture of the season when we know we're not making the playoffs," he said. "It's disappointing we couldn't get one. We need to find a way to win one in L.A. to salvage this road trip."
New York has lost the first four games of this swing, and has dropped 10 consecutive road meetings with the Clippers since a win on March 25, 1998. That season also was the last time the Knicks swept the season series from Los Angeles.
Lee could make the difference again. He's averaging 20.0 points and 12.0 boards in the last three meetings, getting 25 and 11 in a 95-91 win Dec. 18.
The Clippers, losers of 14 of 16, are trying to snap a four-game slide. They appeared to be headed to a victory Saturday, but wasted a 21-point first-half lead to lose 98-90 at Denver.
Los Angeles committed 20 turnovers to the Nuggets' seven.
"We didn't make shots," coach Kim Hughes said. "We took poor outside shots, instead of going inside. We lost the game with turnovers again."
Eric Gordon, who scored 23 points, is looking to continue his success against the Knicks. The guard is averaging 21.0 points in three meetings against them, including a 30-point performance in a 128-124 overtime win on Feb. 11, 2009 at Staples Center.