NBA Basketball: New Jersey Nets at LA Clippers - Nets Favored
After a couple of losing stretches earlier in the season, the Los Angeles Clippers appear to have found their groove as they've reached they halfway point.
The Clippers look to win their fourth straight game and move above .500 for the first time in more than a month as they host the New Jersey Nets on Thursday.
Oddsmakers have made Los Angeles -7 point spread favorites
Los Angeles (20-21) had high expectations for this season after making the playoffs last season for the first time since 1996-97.
After enduring a five-game losing streak and a six-game skid at the start of the season, the Clippers are finally starting to turn things around.
They defeated Milwaukee 115-96 on Tuesday, and have won their last two games by a combined 40 points.
``We just need to take it one game at a time, that is the biggest thing,'' Corey Maggette said. ``We can't get too far ahead of ourselves, and at the end of the day we just need to focus on working hard.''
Los Angeles was 25-16 at the midway point in 2005-06, and finished with the fifth-most wins in the Western Conference (47). This season, the Clippers are tied with Minnesota for eighth place in the West and have not been .500 since Dec. 11, when they were 10-10.
``We just have to fight for the eighth seed and keep on fighting from there up the ladder,'' forward Elton Brand said. ``It feels like we are turning it around, but we just have to take it game-by-game. I want to see more from the team, string some wins together, and then we won't have to worry about it at all.''
Brand scored 23 of his 25 points by halftime as the Clippers scored a season-high 67 points in the first half. Brand had a season-high 24 first-half points in Saturday's 112-91 win over Memphis en route to scoring a season-best 34.
During the win streak, Brand is averaging 28.7 points - eight points more than his season average - and shooting 66.7 percent.
Small forward Quinton Ross has also been contributing more lately. He scored 13 points against the Bucks and is averaging 15.3 points - 8.9 points better than his average - in his last four games.
The Clippers and Nets (20-22) have not played each other since exactly one year ago, when Los Angeles won 90-77 on Jan. 25, 2006, at the Staples Center to split the season series.
The Clippers have won their last two home games over New Jersey, but are just 3-9 against the Nets since the 2000-01 season, and have not won a season series since 1989-90.
Los Angeles has won six of its last seven games at the Staples Center, where it is 15-7.
The Nets lost to Golden State 110-109 on Wednesday as they watched a double-digit fourth-quarter lead disappear for the second straight game. They opened their five-game road trip with an 88-87 loss to Sacramento on Monday - squandering a 10-point lead with just over seven minutes remaining - and led 104-93 with 4:22 left on Wednesday.
``We were up in the fourth quarter, and we never closed the door,'' Jason Kidd said. ``If we had minimized our mistakes, our record could be a lot better. But we don't.''
Kidd had 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists on Wednesday, and is averaging 19.6 points, 9.3 assists and 8.8 rebounds in his last nine games.
Vince Carter finished with 23 points and a career-high 13 assists against the Warriors, after being held to a season-low eight points on Monday.
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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