by Charlie O. Mallonee
Sacramento — The Sacramento Kings had the unenviable job of trying to get back into the win column against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. The Clippers (25-14) came into the game winners of two consecutive games despite being short-handed due to injuries.
The Kings (15-21) literally went to battle with their rivals from Southern California but were unable to cross the finish line victorious losing 106-98.
Kings head coach Dave Joerger analyzed the game this way: “Good competitive basketball game. They’re a very talented team. They made more shots than we did. The lack of seeing the ball go in affected some of the other parts of out game. We had a tough stretch in the second quarter … they got some transition three’s. All in all good basketball game. The guys competed.”
When asked how his team is going to be able to beat teams like the Clippers in the future, Joerger responded, “They have just got to keep working and playing as hard as they can. Play at as high of a level as they can. There’s nothing to hang your head about. They (the Clippers) are one of the five best teams in the league.”
The Kings cut the Clippers lead to just two points, 100-98, with 56.2-seconds remaining in the game. After Sacramento turned the ball over on a bad pass by Cousins under the basket, the Kings had no choice but to foul the opposition. The Clippers went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in final seconds while Kings were unable to score.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said, “The resolve, I thought that we showed in the fourth quarter was just fantastic. I love it.”
Key players returned for both teams
The Kings had been without Rudy Gay for nine games due to a right hip flexor strain. Gay was able to return to the lineup on Friday night and made an immediate impact scoring nine points in the first quarter.
Gay went on to play 33-minutes scoring 18 points and adding seven rebounds for his team. He shot 7-for-17 for the game and was just 1-for-3 from beyond the 3-point line, but there was bound to be some rust to shake off after the extended layoff.
Chris Paul made his return to the floor for the Clippers in the game. The all-star point guard had been sidelined for four consecutive games due to a sore left hamstring. Paul played 31-minutes and recorded a double-double by scoring 14 points and dishing out 12 assists.
Paul’s head coach, Doc Rivers, thought his defense down the stretch was what made the difference in the game for the Clippers.
The teams traded controlling the flow of the game
The Kings and Clippers each controlled the flow of the game in very distinct ways on Friday night. Sacramento was very much in charge in the first quarter as they outscored LAC 29-19 and shot 50-percent from the field. They seemed determined, ready and not totally dependent on DeMarcus Cousins.
Sacramento ran into a real rough patch in the second period as the Clippers erased their 10-point lead in less than six minutes. Los Angeles outscored the Kings 34-12 in the quarter behind the 3-point shooting of Austin Rivers and JJ Redick. Sacramento shot just 15-percent (3-for-20) in the period. At the half, the Clippers led the Kings 53-41.
Based on their play in the second quarter, the Kings could have been completely out of the game early if they did not come out strong after halftime. They responded to that challenge and shot the lights out in the third quarter. Sacramento behind Cousins’ 11 points outpaced the Clippers 32-22 in the period. The Kings shot 63.2-percent (12-for-19) from the field and hit 4-of-8 3-point opportunities as they closed the LA lead to just two points, 75-73, after 36 minutes of play.
The talent and experience of the Clippers came into play in the fourth quarter as they scored 31 points to the Kings 25. LAC shot 50-percent (9-for-18) from the floor and 50-percent (5-of-10) from 3-point land plus they converted 8-of-9 free throws in the final period. Chris Paul led the Clippers scoring attack with seven points all from the free throw line.
The Kings struggled as they shot 9-for-24 (37.5-percent) from the field and 33.3-percent (3-for-9) from long range in the quarter. They hit 4-of-5 from the charity stripe.
The flow of most games is not usually as defined as it was in this game and is much more difficult to uncover. In this game, it was almost like there was a giant flashing arrow pointing out a change in the direction of the flow of the game.
- DeMarcus Cousins scored a game-high 25 points and made it a double-double game by grabbing 11 rebounds. Cousins spent much of the night on the high post in order to avoid foul trouble by battling with DeAndre Jordan and Luc Mbah a Moute.
- Darren Collison was very productive playing the two-guard most of the game. He scored 20 points shooting 7-for-13 from the floor and hitting 3-of-6 from beyond the 3-point arc.
- Ty Lawson put up 17 points while shooting 50-percent (6-for-12) from the floor. Lawson also distributed six assists from the point for the Kings.
- Kosta Koufos played a diminished role with the change in rotation due to Gay’s return and the use of Collison and Lawson on the floor together. Dave Joerger praised Koufos for his professional attitude toward the changes. He scored seven points in 12-minutes of playing time. That was key playing time because it allowed DeMarcus Cousins to get very valuable rest.
- Austin Rivers had another big game for LAC scoring 24 points in almost 36 minutes on the floor. Rivers hit 4-of-7 3-point shots.
- DeAndre Jordan put up 20 points from the five spot on the floor. He was an incredible 9-for-10 on high percentage shots for the Clippers. Many of those shots were “slammed home with authority!”
- JJ Redick did his job to perfection killing the Kings momentum with well timed field goals that totaled 19 points. Five of his six baskets were 3-point conversions.
Up next on the schedule
The Kings will return to action at home on Sunday night when they host the Golden State Warriors. Playing the Warriors is tough enough but now Golden State is going to come to Sacramento angry. The Warriors lost an overtime game at home to Memphis on Friday night. There were reports of anger between players spilling over in the locker room. Golden State will be determined not to lose two in a row.
The Clippers return to Los Angeles and will host the Miami Heat on Sunday at the Staples Center. The Heat lost to the Lakers 127-100 at Staples on Friday night. The Clippers have the opportunity to make it four consecutive wins in one week. That would be a nice way to kick off the new year.