Reporting from East Rutherford, N.J. — The New Jersey Nets, they have issues.
There's an ownership in transition, an unsettled arena situation and a roster that could be described as short-handed even when every player is available.
The Nets recently completed a 0-4 trip in which the losses came by a combined 100 points. They returned home Wednesday night only to have two starters sidelined because of various ailments.
And still, they beat the Clippers.
The team that remains on pace to compile the worst record in NBA history outplayed the Clippers in every facet during a 103-87 triumph at IZOD Center that Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy described as "absolutely our worst loss of the season."
Perhaps it was a sign of things to come when the bus that carried Dunleavy and three players to the arena arrived half an hour late after getting stuck in traffic. The Clippers then ran behind on defense for much of the game, allowing the Nets to shoot a season-high 53.2% en route to only their fourth victory of the season.
Forward Kris Humphries came off the bench to score a career-high 25 points on 10-for-14 shooting for New Jersey (4-40), which ended a losing streak at 11 games and a skid against Western Conference opponents at 29 games, dating to last season.
"When you're a team that only won three games, you're doing everything wrong," said Clippers shooting guard Eric Gordon, who scored 12 points in his return from a three-game absence caused by a sprained toe. "Every game is a lucky win for them."
Consider the Clippers unlucky, then.
They played most of the game without Marcus Camby after the forward suffered a bruised rib while taking a charge in the first quarter and all but 2 minutes 2 seconds of the fourth quarter without Baron Davis after tendinitis in the guard's right knee flared up. Davis said the balky knee resulted from inadequate pregame stretching and treatment because he was on the late-arriving bus.
The Clippers (20-25) fell to 1-3 on their eight-game trip and lost a game they probably had to win to satisfy their goal of reaching .500 by the All-Star break.
"Words can't even describe it," said Davis, who made two of 10 shots and finished with six points. "I mean, this is a game we needed to put ourselves in a good position and now our backs are really to the wall. We're talking about fighting for a playoff spot and this is a team that's not even close to making the playoffs."
It was also a team that wasn't close to full strength. Nets point guard Devin Harris did not play because of a sore right wrist and shooting guard Courtney Lee sat out after having a wisdom tooth removed.
Nets fans remained subdued even as their team built a 16-point lead in the second quarter, perhaps waiting for what seemed like an inevitable collapse. Sure enough, the Clippers scored 12 of the first 14 points in the third quarter to tie the score, 53-53, after Chris Kaman made one of two free throws.
But the Clippers' defense unraveled and they could find few offensive catalysts besides Kaman, who finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Playing in his first game as a Clipper, guard Bobby Brown made two three-point baskets early in the fourth quarter to pull his new team to within three points before New Jersey bounced back to secure its first victory of 2010.
Dunleavy said teams such as the Nets are the ones that "worry me the most" because of the Clippers' tendency to crumble against them. His theory will be tested again Friday when the Clippers play at last-place Minnesota.
"I told our guys, 'You've got to prove me wrong. You have to come out here and play with the intensity we need. . . . If you don't bring it to them and show them it's not their night, they're going to keep coming,' " Dunleavy said.
Gordon has been selected by the league's assistant coaches to play for the sophomore team in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam on Feb. 12 as part of the All-Star weekend festivities in Dallas.
At halftime, Gordon will compete against Toronto Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan in a slam-dunk competition, with the winner advancing to the Sprite Slam Dunk the next night.