At 9-12, the New Jersey Nets are at a familiar juncture, having posted that mark each of the past three seasons. A home matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers may help them build some positive momentum from here.
Losers of three straight and trying to avoid a second straight December meltdown, the Nets look to continue their home dominance of the Clippers as the teams meet Tuesday night.
New Jersey has taken different paths each of the past two seasons after starting both at 9-12. In 2005-06, the Nets reeled off 10 straight wins, but they fell to 11-18 last season before finally regrouping.
"We've been through this drill two years in a row; this is year three," Nets coach Lawrence Frank told the team's official Web site. "You stay the course, you continue to work, you don't let go of the rope so to speak, you press on, we hold each other accountable and we work at it every day."
New Jersey has lost three straight for the first time since a season-worst six-game skid in November, but has a good opportunity to end its slump as it takes on Los Angeles (7-12) at the Izod Center. The Nets haven't lost at home to the Clippers in nearly a decade, winning eight straight since a 119-116 loss on Jan. 15, 1998.
The Izod Center, however, has been a big part of New Jersey's problems. The Nets are 4-8 at home, losing seven of their last eight there.
New Jersey will be playing three of its next four at home following a 104-89 road loss to Washington on Sunday night. The Nets lost despite outstanding performances from Vince Carter and Jason Kidd. Carter scored 30 points, and Jason Kidd recorded his 92nd triple-double with 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.
Carter was coming off a 32-point effort in a loss to Houston on Friday night. The veteran swingman is averaging 29.3 points in his last three home games against Los Angeles.
The Nets, however, lack a strong presence in the middle and could have trouble defending Clippers center Chris Kaman, who is having a breakout season.
Kaman had 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks as he matched up with Miami's Shaquille O'Neal on Sunday, but Los Angeles lost 100-94. The 7-footer, an early favorite for the NBA's most improved player, is averaging 18.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks.
Kaman, whose 15 double-doubles in 19 games exceeded his total from 2006-07, has been able to blossom in the frontcourt partly because forward Elton Brand (Achilles) is injured, but Los Angeles is clearly missing Brand and point guard Shaun Livingston (knee). The Clippers have last eight of their last nine and are 3-13 since winning their first four games.
Kaman and Corey Maggette have been Los Angeles' biggest bright spots. Maggette had 24 points and 12 rebounds against the Heat, and is averaging 20.6 points and 7.0 rebounds.
The teams split their two meetings last season.
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