The Clippers made their first trip to the East this season, searching for something more tangible than the grudging respect that seems to follow them around the league these days.
The praise is all well and good, but the Clippers are desperately seeking victories away from the friendly rims, fans and officiating at Staples Center.
All they found Monday at the First Union Center was more misery away from sun-soaked Southern California. The Clippers fell with a thud to the Philadelphia 76ers, 116-92, before a crowd of 20,414.
The loss was the Clippers' ninth in 11 road games. Only the Denver Nuggets, who are 2-10, and the woebegone Chicago Bulls (0-17) have worse road records.
Power forward Elton Brand, who has been nursing a sore right elbow the last week or so after taking a nasty fall, epitomized the Clippers' struggles against the 76ers. Brand, who leads the team with averages of 18.6 points and 11.1 rebounds, scored only nine points and missed 10 of 14 shots. He also took 12 rebounds.
After several days of stoicism, Brand finally acknowledged he is troubled by pain in his elbow. It was obvious to anyone who watched him try to shoot the basketball Monday. All his baskets came on tip-ins.
"It's pretty painful," Brand said. "They've been trying to get me to sit out. I thought I could help the team tonight. I don't want to hurt the team."
It's unlikely Brand, a former Bull, will miss tonight's game against the Washington Wizards and another notable former Bull by the name of Michael Jordan. The plan is for Brand to have his elbow X-rayed, perhaps as soon as today, but more likely Wednesday, when the Clippers travel to New York before facing the New Jersey Nets.
"Anytime I do anything where I have to extend it," Brand said of the pain in his right arm. "It hurts releasing the shot. It hurts on free throws. It's anything where I'm extending."
Playing without a fit Brand was difficult enough for the Clippers, but Philadelphia's Allen Iverson recorded the first triple-double of his career to make matters worse. No matter how the Clippers tried to thwart him, including using a zone defense for a time, the man known as "the Answer" solved it.
Iverson went for 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He hit on drives to the basket, including a spectacular reverse layup in the first half. He also swished long-range jump shots.
"Allen had a phenomenal all-around game," Philadelphia Coach Larry Brown said.
And since none of the Clippers did, the game quickly turned into a runaway.
Quentin Richardson led the Clippers with 21 points, but before the game was over, they trailed by as many as 30.
Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry wasn't around at the finish. He was ejected with 8:31 remaining after receiving two technical fouls for arguing with the officials. Iverson made both free throws and two more after Earl Boykins fouled him, giving the 76ers a 93-68 lead.
Asked what he might have said or done to warrant the ejection, Gentry bristled.
"I didn't say anything, not a single word," he said.
The Clippers scored first on Corey Maggette's jump shot from the right wing and never led again. Philadelphia led, 53-38, at halftime and 83-64 after three quarters en route to its second victory over the Clippers in less than two weeks.
The 76ers won at Staples Center on Dec. 26, the second game of a seven-game trip.
The 76ers returned Sunday to Philadelphia having lost four of seven on their 13-day cross-country trip, with questions swirling around them about Brown's future. Monday's victory was just the sort of tonic the 76ers needed to put to rest, for a night at least, thoughts of a future without Brown.
"I was concerned about this game because I thought we would be tired," Brown said. "We started out with so much life. I think when you start out and it is too easy, it is very difficult if a team comes back at you. We handled it extremely well."
The Clippers made one run at the 76ers, pulling within 32-31 after Richardson's layup midway through the second quarter. But Philadelphia rocketed away quickly, building its 15-point halftime lead.