Resurgent Clippers Roll Past Carter, Nets
L.A. Clippers 90, New Jersey 77
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25 (Ticker) -- Elton Brand and the Los Angeles Clippers have silenced their detractors, at least for a little while. Conversely, Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets are looking for answers.
Brand scored 19 points as the Clippers completely dominated the slumping Nets en route to a 90-77 triumph.
But the Clippers have responded with victories in six of their last eight contests. With a record of 23-16, they are off to the franchise's best 39-game start since the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves opened 24-15.
"We didn't really lose our swagger," Brand said. "We just didn't play well defensively in some games. We feel confident coming into every game and we've been playing well as of late."
Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy was quick to point out that his squad ranks near the top of the NBA in several key defensive categories.
"We're No. 1 in the league in rebounding, we're top three in (opponents') field-goal percentage, we're No. 1 in blocked shots," he said. "So our defense certainly is better than last year. Last year was better than the year before, but we made another jump."
Former Net Sam Cassell collected 17 points and seven assists, Chris Kaman had 17 and nine rebounds and Cuttino Mobley added 15 and a career-high 13 boards for Los Angeles, which held a 49-37 edge on the glass.
"They fell in my lap," Mobley said. "When I'm getting rebounds, I can push it up the floor."
Cassell had words of praise for his backcourt mate, who added seven assists.
"(Mobley) is one of the guys that we lean on to do a little bit of everything," Cassell said. "He scores and gets big rebounds for us. He's that kind of guy."
Los Angeles entered halftime with a 43-32 advantage before pulling away in the third quarter.
Mobley knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:51 left in the third quarter to push the lead to 70-51. Two minutes later, he converted a layup to give Los Angeles a 72-56 advantage heading into the final period.
"We wanted to get off to a good start, come out with some good energy and fire," Brand said. "We did that and they got behind, and we just wanted to keep plugging away."
The Clippers dominated on the defensive end, limiting the suddenly offensively challenged Nets to 38 percent (29-of-76).
"It was a combination of turnovers and missed opportunities," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "We had shots right by the rim that didn't go in. We had some defensive mistakes with our rotations, and the turnovers in the first half didn't allow us to get into a flow."
"We wanted to control the pace," Brand said. "We didn't want to let them get any fast-break points like they did when we played in New Jersey."
Los Angeles did a particularly good job shutting down Carter, who managed just three points on 1-of-9 shooting before leaving with 2:25 to play in the third quarter with a sore back. He suffered the injury in Monday's loss at Utah, where he shot 2-of-14 for just five points.
"I was going through the layup lines and I felt it get a little tight, but it was still early," Carter said. "I thought when the game got going I'd be all right. During the game I got bumped, and the back started to tighten up and I couldn't get any lift.
"It's not a matter of coming back to soon," he added. "You never know until you try. I just didn't want to sit here and play the guessing game of, 'Could I have played or not?'"
Jason Kidd scored 19 points and Richard Jefferson added 15 for the Nets, who have managed just 155 points over the first two games of their four-game road trip.