In the blank space between football and the official arrival of pitchers and catchers down South, the city game Sunday brought more than 36,000 fans to two arenas in two boroughs for two hometown teams almost certainly bound for the postseason.

Groggy February Sundays are made of this — sooty mounds of snow and crosswalks clogged with slush. But the games — the Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers at Madison Square Garden in the afternoon, and the San Antonio Spurs in Brooklyn against the Nets at night — provided a dose of relief.

Snowstorms are one thing, but surviving the lull in sports seasons is another.

This holds, even if it means enduring two lopsided losses to two of the NBA’s premier clubs. First, the Knicks were beaten, 102-88, by the Clippers, despite a charge in the third period and 42 points from Carmelo Anthony. The Clippers have fourth-best record in the NBA.
In contrast, the Nets went into a kind of wintertime hibernation in the second half when they were outscored 60-29 and lost, 111-86, to the Spurs, who have won 40 games, more than any team in the league.

The Knicks and Nets can exchange grim tales of how they were undone by two of the league’s most artistic point guards. The Clippers’ Chris Paul showed off his quick step and a crossover dribble which often left the Knicks flatfooted and gawking. Paul had 25 points, seven assists, and four steals, relying on deceptive and balletic grace,

Against the Nets, The Spurs’ Tony Parker did him even better, scoring 29 and adding 11 assists. In the third quarter, as the Spurs claimed the lead and pulled away, he drove to the basket, spinning around Kris Humphries. Moments later, he faked a shot before ducking under the outspread arms of Brook Lopez for a score.

Even with the defeats, the matchups against two must-see teams held the promise of April and playoff season. The Knicks are still ranked second in the Eastern Conference, and the Nets are fifth.