| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Excited after their command performance against the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Clippers accept they have to become much more consistent after a Jekyll-and-Hyde start to the season.
While Wednesday's 106-84 win against the previously unbeaten Spurs was their third over a likely playoff team in five games, they stunningly lost to the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers who are not expected to reach the postseason.
Asked by reporters why the Clippers have so far raised their collective game only against quality opponents, five-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul replied: "That's a good question. We're trying to figure that out.
"We can't be a team that plays to the level of our competition, because it's a long season. Tonight we were so successful because of our defense," Paul said after the victory over San Antonio.
"When you defend and stop teams, that is what basketball is all about. We know that we can score, but it is actually fun to stop teams and see them get frustrated. We needed a win like this."
Led by double-doubles from Blake Griffin (22 points, 10 rebounds) and DeAndre Jordan (20 points, 11 rebounds), the Clippers out-rebounded the Spurs 46-29 and out-shot them from the field by 55.4 percent to 41.1.
Not only did the lopsided win improve their record to 3-2 but it gave them a measure of revenge after they were swept by the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs last season.
"That was a tough pill to swallow," said Clippers center Jordan. "And we lost two games in a row so we were really looking forward to tonight. We just had to go after everything.
"(Injured Clippers guard) Chauncey (Billups) gave us a good talking to after the last two games. We really didn't want to disappoint him.
"He told us that we took our last two opponents for granted and we didn't come out to play. Tonight we brought more intensity and it helped us."
The Clippers' level of intensity shook the four-time NBA champion Spurs, who slipped to their first defeat of the season after making a franchise-best 4-0 start.
"They played with a lot more energy and they shot the ball very well," said veteran point guard Tony Parker, who contributed only four points and six assists on the night.
"We just couldn't get our offense going, we couldn't match their energy. We just have to watch it on film and see what we can do better."
The Clippers had little time to savor their impressive display against the Spurs as they were facing the Trail Blazers in Portland later on Thursday.
"We have to mature and continue to do so as a team," said head coach Vinny Del Negro whose Clippers roster has new faces this season in Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom.
"We have to go through the aches and pains of a new season and a new team and understand where we are together.
"When we get on the same page and lock in, we have some good depth." (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine)