LOS ANGELES, Nov. 18 (Ticker) -- The big names, the dancing girls and the courtside celebrities still are part of the Los Angeles Lakers' world. A one-sided rivalry with the intracity rivals Clippers no longer exists.

Elton Brand scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Clippers improved on the best start in franchise history in a 97-91 victory over the Lakers.

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The Clippers began to emerge from the shadow of their once-dynastic neighbors last season by finishing ahead of the Lakers in the Pacific Division for the first time since the 1992-93 season.

"It doesn't matter to me about the rivalry," said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy Sr., who coached the Lakers from 1990-92. "We are looking to win and make the playoffs. We want to beat every team that comes in here."

Despite the return of coach Phil Jackson to the Lakers' bench, the Clippers continue to assert themselves as the city's premier team. They have won four of their last five games and improved to 7-2 for the first time in franchise history by controlling their rivals throughout.

"It was a great team effort," Brand said after recording his third straight double-double. "We shared the ball and played great defense when we had to. The wins keep piling up and it is great, the things that are happening. But it is early yet, we have to keep improving."

On his 36th birthday, Sam Cassell scored 14 points in the first half and Brand had 13 as the Clippers took a 53-45 lead into the break. They extended their advantage to 87-75 on a 3-pointer by Cuttino Mobley with 3:48 to play before fending off a late charge by the Lakers.

Lamar Odom capped a 7-0 surge with a short jumper to get the Lakers within 87-82 and Kobe Bryant's 20-footer made it 91-86 with 75 seconds left.

Brand and Bryant exchanged two free throws and Brand added another to make it 94-88 with 55 seconds to go. Bryant missed a long 3-pointer seconds later and Corey Maggette, who scored 22 points, made two more from the line to seal it with 39 seconds remaining.

Mobley added 20 points and Cassell 17 for the Clippers, who outscored the Lakers in each of the first three quarters.

"Every day, 15 guys are going after each other in practice," Cassell said. "If we continue to improve as a team and grow as a team, we will be fine. We need to play defense and rebound."

The Clippers held a 43-41 advantage on the boards and had nine blocked shots - five from Brand and four from center Chris Kaman, who chipped in 10 points and 11 rebounds.

"That is what we need from him," Cassell said of Kaman. "When he plays big like tonight, it will be tough for anyone to beat us."

Bryant scored 36 points but was just 12-of-35 from the floor. He made his first 3-pointer of the season in the third quarter but was 1-of-8 overall in the fourth period. Odom added 18 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

"We really don't know where we are supposed to be yet," Bryant said. "To think that through the course of the game, that was evident, with everybody just tip-toeing around out there, not knowing whether to run into the post or what position to fill in.

"It is just part of the process, I guess."

After a 3-28 stretch in the series, the Clippers have won the last three meetings.