Daily Confidential

The Los Angeles Clippers have struggled to 16 losses already this season and are mired in last place in the Pacific Division. The Boston Celtics have the same number of defeats, but thanks to playing in the inferior Atlantic Division, they can call themselves contenders.

Both teams try to shake off double-digit losses when they meet Wednesday night at Staples Center.

The Celtics (10-16) kicked off their five-game road trip against Western Conference teams Tuesday with a 116-105 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The defeat was the third straight for Boston after a season-high five-game winning streak. Denver stepped to the line for 43 free-throw attempts as the Celtics committed 32 fouls.

``I thought the effort was great, the execution was poor,'' Boston coach Doc Rivers said. ``Our defense was disappointing.''

Injuries keep mounting for the Celtics. Guard Delonte West had to leave Tuesday's game after falling on his back, and his status is uncertain. Boston is already without its top two scorers, Paul Pierce (foot) and Wally Szczerbiak (ankle), who combine to average nearly 45 points.

Pierce will not play on this road trip, although Szczerbiak may be ready to return soon. The Celtics have also been playing without frontcourt players Kendrick Perkins, Michael Olowokandi and Theo Ratliff for several weeks.

All the injuries have given some of Boston's younger players a chance to step up. Tony Allen and Gerald Green, in their third and second NBA seasons respectively, led the Celtics with 18 points apiece against the Nuggets. Al Jefferson, a 21-year-old center, added 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double.

Despite all of their struggles, the Celtics trail Toronto by just one game for the lead in the woeful Atlantic.

The Celtics and Clippers (11-16) split two meetings last season, with the road team winning each game. Boston has won its annual road game against the Clippers in five of the last six seasons, including a 111-92 victory last New Year's Eve.

Los Angeles entered this season with high hopes after posting 47 wins last season - its most in 31 years - and reaching the Western Conference semifinals, but has dropped seven of its last eight games and 15 of 21 after a 5-1 start to fall into last place in the Pacific. The Clippers already trail Phoenix by 8 1/2 games for the division lead.

Elton Brand had 21 points to lead five Clippers in double figures Tuesday night at Utah, but Los Angeles fell 102-92 to the Jazz. The Clippers got whistled for 28 personal fouls compared with 20 for the Jazz, drawing the ire of Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy, who got called for a technical foul in the third quarter.

``Look at their guys, who are physical guys, how many fouls they get called for. I'm really impressed with their technique,'' Dunleavy said sarcastically. ``I'm going to study the film so I can get our guys to copy it.''

The Clippers are 10-6 at Staples Center, but have lost four straight games there.

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