Nets win season-high third straight, top Clippers

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NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets showed why they were early-season favorites in a 102-93 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

Struggling to stay healthy all season, the Nets welcomed back star point guard Deron Williams, who is described as the head of the snake by teammate Paul Pierce.

"I think the biggest thing is that we're healthy," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "This has been a big plus for us."

Brooklyn (8-14) ran its winning streak to a season-high three games.

"It's great and the most important thing is that we have to keep streaking," Nets center Brook Lopez said. "Our guys are playing great together and we're playing with a lot of confidence."

Williams scored 15 points and added five rebounds and four assists in his second game back since an ankle injury sidelined him for three weeks. He was one of five Nets to score in double figures. Guard Joe Johnson and reserve center Andray Blatche tied for the team lead with 21 points, while Lopez added 16.

"You can see the energy and the pace has picked up," Williams said. "I have a little bit to do with that, but I can't take all the credit. We're playing really good as a team right now."

Lopez left the game in the fourth quarter when he tweaked his ankle.

"I just twisted it a little, sprained it a little," Lopez said. "I think I got hit by someone, I don't really know what happened in the heat of the moment but it'll be all right."

Blatche, who earned a standing ovation at the end of the third quarter, shot 7-for-11 from the field and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.

"I think he was just aggressive," Kidd said of Blatche. "He is someone we count on to put the ball in the basket from the inside as well as the outside and he got it going and we played through him."

The Nets, who were suffering from third-quarter collapses, flipped the script, using stellar defense and an in-sync offense to take the Clippers out of the game.

"The defense is having a ball," Kidd said. "The guys are executing the game plan, they're trusting one another."

Pierce finished with 10 points, but his presence did plenty to bother the Clippers. Los Angeles shot just 7-of-20 in the first half when he was on the floor, sparking a Nets surge.

Garnett had just two points and six rebounds in 15 minutes.

Clippers forward Blake Griffin struggled with his mid-range game, shooting 2-for-8 from the field. He finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

"He still needs to use his speed and athleticism," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "It's good that he's working on his mid-range game. It's better when he's facing the basket."

Brooklyn's defense proved hazardous for the Clippers, who shot just 37.1 percent from the field. Point guard Chris Paul led Los Angeles with 20 points but only had two assists, far off his league-leading 11.9 mark.

The Nets took full advantage of the time Paul and Griffin were not on the floor together.

"Honestly, I thought we started out with great spirit," Rivers said. "The bench came in and gave it all away ... you could feel the air just get let out of the game."

Brooklyn trailed by as many as 12 points in the first quarter before Blatche helped the Nets grab their first lead of the night. He scored 10 points in the second quarter while Paul and Griffin sat. Williams scored 12 points in the final five minutes of the half, putting the Nets up 12 at the break after they outscored the Clippers 36-19 in the second quarter.

"I think the second unit did a really good job digging us out of that hole," Williams said. "We had a really good second quarter and closed out the half really well."

The Nets shot 28-for-30 from the free-throw line, while the Clippers were 35-for-52.

"It's strange when you lose a game when you get to the line 52 times," Rivers said. "Usually you win those games and tonight we didn't. We just didn't have any movement."

NOTES: Clippers C DeAndre Jordan is making a case to be an All-Star. He began the night ranked second in the NBA in field-goal percentage (.619), third in rebounds per game (13.0) and fifth in blocks per game (2.09). He finished with six points, 12 boards and one block Thursday. ... The Clippers brought the league's fifth-ranked offense into Brooklyn, averaging 103.7 points per game. They know how to share the ball, averaging 24 assists per game, third best in the NBA. ... Playing in his first game since Nov. 15, Nets G Deron Williams had 25 points and seven assists in Brooklyn's 104-96 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.