Los Angeles Clippers: Will This Team Play Consistent Defense?

Todd PheiferAnalyst IIINovember 8, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers fights for position against Stephen Jackson #3 of the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on November 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 106-84.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Clippers looked like a team going through the motions when they lost to the mediocre Cleveland Cavaliers on November 5.

Two nights later, the Clips were pounding the undefeated San Antonio Spurs and looking like a team to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

What gives?

I know that basketball is a game of momentum, and on any given night one team may not “show up” for four quarters. Still, it makes me wonder about the defensive consistency of this team. Will they play hard enough throughout the season to get into a playoff mindset when the postseason comes?

Chris Paul was quoted (via ESPN) as saying, “When you defend and stop teams, that's when it's fun. If you can defend on a nightly basis in this league, you've always got a chance to win. We needed a win like this."

If you can defend on a nightly basis…or is it when?

The offensive tools are clearly there for this team. There are a lot of weapons, and this squad can score points in a hurry. 

Defense is about a designed scheme, but at its core it is about effort. The same can be said for rebounding. How many of us were taught the fundamentals of rebounding? Know where the ball is, because when it goes up you are going to find someone to box out.

This team is 26th in the league in rebounding, and they are 18th in points allowed. The transition defense is too slow, the rotations are not consistent and too often the perimeter defense has not been quick enough to deny the open three.

Obviously it is early, but I wonder if Vinny Del Negro has the mindset and rapport to demand tough defense every night. It's nice to play with a chip on your shoulder when an elite club like the Spurs comes to town, but what happens when Toronto or Detroit rolls in?

I get that the NBA season is long. As much as fans assume that players are going to be motivated every night, we have to remember that these are still people.

There are times when every one of us has struggled to maintain motivation at the office.

Again, the game against the Spurs showed what this club is capable of when they are properly motivated. Still, the Clippers won with great shooting and taking care of the ball.

When they have an off night from the floor, will they raise their level of defensive intensity?

The presence of Matt Barnes will obviously help, as he is probably the best on-the-ball defender on the team. But whether he can inspire his teammates to a similar level of effort remains to be seen.

So far, I am not convinced that the Clippers have the attitude to play up to their defensive potential.