LOS ANGELES • After slumping to their third straight National Basketball Association loss - their worst run of the campaign - Kawhi Leonard wants the Los Angeles Clippers to start living up to their tags as one of the favourites for the championship.
The hosts remain third in the Western Conference after falling 112-103 to the Sacramento Kings at the Staples Centre on Saturday in what was their first game back following the All-Star break.
The nine-day hiatus appeared to affect the Clippers, who came out sluggish, missing 20 of 24 shots and scoring just 13 points in the first quarter to set the tone for the rest of the game.
Reserve Kent Bazemore paced the visitors with 23 points, while De'Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic each scored 20 points as the Kings reeled off their fifth victory in the past seven games.
Sacramento blew out the Clippers 124-103 in their most recent meeting in Los Angeles last month.
After showing they have learnt little from both defeats, Leonard, who led all scorers with 31 points, admitted his team needed to start showing some consistency with only 26 regular-season games left.
"You never know what could happen," the reigning Finals Most Valuable Player said. "But I mean, now. The time is now. Just got to keep getting better.
"But it doesn't matter what seed you are. Just got to keep fighting. It is about the right team peaking at the right time. I don't think we have even got there yet. It feels like we are getting close, but we just need guys to get healthy."
The Clippers (37-19) were without Paul George (hamstring) and Patrick Beverley (groin) and are still bedding in recent acquisitions Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson.
And Lou Williams, who added 24 points on the night, felt that once "they work out some kinks", his team would prove their credentials.
On their inconsistency, the guard said: "Definitely not a concern, we just continue to build. We've lost three games in a row before - not this particular group, but everybody in this locker room has experienced it.
"As far as the standings go, we're still in a good space, so it's nothing to be concerned about. But we gotta get the next one (at home to the Memphis Grizzlies today)."
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