(20-23, 7-13 away)
(21-21, 16-7 home)
7:30 PM ET, January 25, 2007
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The third time wasn't the charm for the New Jersey Nets, who will be haunted all season by a bizarre stretch of one-point defeats on this California trip.
Cuttino Mobley made a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left on the clock, lifting the Los Angeles Clippers to a 102-101 victory over New Jersey on Thursday night. The Nets were beaten Monday at Sacramento by a jumper by Mike Bibby with 10.3 seconds remaining, then at the buzzer on a 17-footer by Golden State's Monta Ellis on Wednesday.
"In this league, you've got to expect anything and everything," Jason Kidd said. "We've put ourselves in a position to win, and we've come up short by a point in the last three games. It's not like we're getting blasted by 20 and you're searching for what we need to do. For us, it's just been the last 30 seconds and the ball hasn't bounced our way."
Mobley broke the Nets' hearts after Kidd missed everything on a 3-point shot and New Jersey turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation. The Clippers called a timeout and the ball went to Cassell, who drove halfway down the lane before kicking it out to his backcourt mate for a wide-open 3 as Vince Carter scrambled back in vain to contest the shot.
"We fought so hard to get to get back into the game and play as well as we did up until that point, and I screwed it up. I feel bad for it," Carter said. "It's just painful to lose it, but it's more painful for me to have a lapse like that and for us to lose it on my account. I take the onus for that."
Carter scored 33 points for the Nets, who had won nine of 11 prior to this three-game skid -- and lost only one game all last season by a one-point margin.
"Coach called a pick-and-roll and Sam got deep in the lane," Mobley said. "Luckily, Sam saw me. I set my feet and it went in. We read a good play, Sam found me, case closed."
New Jersey inbounded after Mobley's clutch basket, looking for a miracle, but Carter missed tipping in Kidd's high-arching pass toward the hoop.
Elton Brand and reserve forward Corey Maggette each scored 18 points, helping Los Angeles (21-21) climb back to the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 11. Sam Cassell added 15 points and 10 assists.
"Sam's made a great difference," Brand said. "Down the stretch -- or any time in the game -- he's such a threat that teams have to honor him."
The Nets, already missing Richard Jefferson following surgery on his right ankle, got a scare in the final minute of the third quarter when Carter went down grabbing his left ankle after making a 3-pointer and landing on Maggette's foot. Carter limped back onto the court after a timeout, finishing the quarter with 15 points and scored nine more in the fourth.
"I didn't even have time to think about it, to tell the truth," Carter said. "I just tried to play through it to try to give us a chance to win. I didn't have a choice. I just figured I'd deal with it later."
Trailing 62-44 early in the third, the Nets sliced the deficit to 94-92 with a 15-6 run capped by Carter's short running jumper with 4:46 to play. Jason Collins' two free throws tied it at 97-all with 2:28 remaining, and Bostjan Nachbar hit a 3-pointer 56 seconds later to put the Nets ahead 100-97 -- their first lead since early in the first quarter.
Carter picked up his third foul on a driving layup by Maggette that gave the Clippers a 42-30 lead with 7:41 left in the second period. The Nets' scoring leader, who came in averaging 24.5 points, went to the bench and was hit with a technical foul moments later by referee Matt Boland for griping about the call.
Carter was edged out of a starting berth in the All-Star game on the final day of fan balloting by a mere 3,101 votes. He came out of the trainer's room to address reporters before the game, thinking that he had held onto the second spot in the Eastern Conference backcourt behind Gilbert Arenas -- before he was told otherwise. Two weeks ago, Carter led Arenas by 214,460 votes.
"I'm happy for Gilbert. He's a friend," Carter said after the game. "He's played his butt off to this point and he deserves the be in that starting group. The fans thought he should be in there, so I applaud him."
Carter was the leading All-Star vote-getter four times, most recently in 2004. ... None of the Clippers were elected by the fans to go to the All-Star gala in Las Vegas -- but one of their cheerleaders was. Lindsay Rosenberg won out over two other members of the Clippers Spirit dance troupe in an internet poll conducted on the team's official web site.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||38-76 (.500)||34-78 (.436)|
|3PM-3PA||7-15 (.467)||5-14 (.357)|
|FTM-FTA||18-25 (.720)||29-34 (.853)|
|Fast Break Points||2||10|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||27 (3/0)||23 (0/0)|