LOS ANGELES - When Elton Brand spoke for the first time after his shoulder injury, he joked about missing tonight's homecoming of sorts against his former team, the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Yeah, definitely, I'm sad," Brand said about 10 days ago. "I know all those fans wanted to wish me a happy New Year, so I'm not going to be out there for that."
During the summer, the power forward spurned the Clippers, opting out of his contract and surprising most in the NBA by signing a five-year deal with the 76ers.
As Brand remains in Philadelphia rehabilitating, his teammates will be looking for their first win of this six-game trip and first in five games. The Sixers have lost four in a row and have not won since beating Washington on Dec. 19.
The struggling Clippers (8-22) are the only sub-.500 opponent on this trip. The Sixers lost to Denver on Friday night and to Utah on Monday night.
After facing the Clippers, the Sixers conclude their trip in Texas, playing the Dallas Mavericks (19-12) and the San Antonio Spurs (20-11).
The 112-95 loss to the Jazz was, according to Sixers coach Tony DiLeo, a step backward.
"I thought we were making progress," DiLeo said. "And I thought the second half was a bit of a letdown."
The Sixers trailed by eight points at halftime, then by as many as 20 in the second half. They allowed eight three-pointers one game after allowing 15 by the Nuggets.
The crucial point was Utah's 10-0 run toward the end of the second quarter, during which the score went from a one-point Sixers advantage to a 48-39 deficit.
"It didn't really fall off in the second half," Sixers power forward Reggie Evans said of his team's intensity. "It fell off the first two minutes of the second quarter, then carried over."
Tonight's game will be the teams' second meeting. On Nov. 21, the Sixers beat the visiting Clippers, 89-88, when Brand hit a last-second jumper. But this go-round will be critical for the Sixers in halting a losing streak and, possibly, salvaging what has been a difficult trip.
"We're looking at it as a game we should get, we should win," forward Thaddeus Young said.
"We need to win the rest of the games on this trip," swingman Andre Iguodala said. "We have to finish it off strong and be a better road team."