LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – Four-time NBA champions San Antonio Spurs crashed to their first defeat of the season as the Los Angeles Clippers dazzled with high-flying dunks and tight defense on the way to a crushing 106-84 win on Wednesday.
Unbeaten in their first four games, the Spurs were no match for an energised Clippers team at a sellout Staples Center where twice All-Star Blake Griffin was a tower of strength, recording a game-high 22 points along with 10 rebounds.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan weighed in with 20 points and 11 rebounds while back-up guard Eric Bledsoe contributed 15 points and Matt Barnes, also off the bench, 12.
“Tonight we were so successful because of our defense,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who totalled 10 points and 12 assists, told reporters. “One thing we said before we ran out tonight was, ‘Let’s just have fun out there.’
“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.”
Seven Clippers players scored in double figures as the home team snapped a two-game losing streak in scintillating style, out-rebounding the Spurs 46-29 and out-shooting them from the field by 55.4 percent to 41.1.
Guard Danny Green poured in three three-pointers to lead the Spurs with 12 points but veteran forward Tim Duncan, with 10, was his only other team mate who got into double figures.
San Antonio, who play their next three games on the road, slipped to 4-1 for the season while Los Angeles improved to 3-2.
“The Clippers played well and that’s why they won,” said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. “They were more emotional, more aggressive. We hung in there for a half but after that we didn’t play with the same intensity as they did, and it showed.
“We sucked on defense. They were aggressive. They got to the hole, they beat us in the break. Every aspect of our defense was poor.”
The Spurs, who had crushed the Indiana Pacers 101-79 on Monday for a franchise-best 4-0 start, raced into an early 7-2 lead but power forward Griffin led the Clippers charge as the home team came roaring back to take control.
A Barnes three-pointer put them ahead 29-18 midway through the second quarter and, despite an unanswered seven-point San Antonio run capped by a Tony Parker floating jump shot, Los Angeles led 47-41 at half-time.
With Jordan thrilling the home crowd with a series of slam dunks and Bledsoe shining with several jinking drives to the basket, the Clippers padded their advantage to 82-62 heading into the final quarter.
There was no way back for San Antonio after that as the Clippers dominated both ends of the court, and Griffin latched on to three ‘alley oop’ dunk shots to rub salt into Spurs’ wounds before leaving the game with 4:47 remaining.
Watched by a crowd of 19,060 that included American boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., the Clippers gained a measure of revenge after being swept by the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs last season.
“We came out with the mindset that we had something to prove,” said Griffin. “We felt we owed it to ourselves to come out and be on our game offensively and, more importantly, defensively.
“We have a lot of guys that can score but when we lock in defensively, that leads to easy baskets and really gets us going.
We were active, we were talking. I thought we did a great job of trying to hustle and make up for our mistakes.”