By Charlie O. Mallonee
The fourth quarter of the Kings-Clippers game was more like the 15th round of a heavyweight fight. It was physical, emotional and exciting. The game was literally won in the final seconds of the game. When the final buzzer sounded, the Clippers had defeated the Kings 103-102.
In the first-half of the game, no one in the stands or watching at home would have guessed that the game would come down to the last second. The Clippers led the Kings 26-19 after the first period of play. By the 9:51 mark in the second quarter, LA led Sacramento by 20 points. It appeared the Kings were about to take a beating by the number two team in Los Angeles.
What happened? Chuck Hayes made a layup with 8:55 to go in the half and ignited the Kings offense. Sacramento would go on to outscore the Clippers 35-28 in the second quarter. At the half, Los Angeles led the Kings 57-48.
In the third period, the battle continued. DeMarcus Cousins decided to put the team on his back and led the charge. Patrick Patterson came alive after having a miserable first-half, and Luc Mbah a Moute provided the defense under the basket that disrupted the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin connection. The Kings won the quarter 21-18 and trailed the Clippers 75-69 after three quarters.
The Clippers may be an offensive machine, but their defense is still lacking. That lack of defense allowed the Kings to scratch and claw their way back into the game. The Kings were led by Patterson, Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins on offense. On defense, Mbah a Moute played tough down low.
The lead see-sawed back and forth until the Kings built a five point lead with 3:19 left to play in the game. The Clippers were not about to surrender. Chris Paul made a 3-pointer and the game was tied at 98-98 with 1:29 left in the game.
LA went back into the lead at 1:04 when Chris Paul made a driving layup. Even more devastating was the foul that was called on Mbah a Moute – his sixth. Watching the replay, the foul should have been charged to Cousins which would have been his sixth. The referees conferred but held firm on their call. Paul missed the free throw, but the loss of Mbah a Moute would lead to the Clippers win.
With the game tied at 100-100, Paul and Griffin pulled off the perfect pick and roll play with no Mbah a Moute to provide the underneath defense.
The game was tied at 102-102 with 0:02 to play. Patterson fouled Chris Paul who hit one of two free throws. Cousins grabbed the rebound and the Kings called a timeout. With 1.9-seconds to go, the Kings got the ball to Cousins who took a desperation shot that missed as time ran out. The Clippers won the game 103-102.
The Kings shot just 42.0% (37-88) from the field just below their season average of 42.6%. They hit just five of 17 shots (29.4%) from beyond the 3-point arc. Sacramento out rebounded the Clippers 46-39. The Kings committed just 10 turnovers.
DeMarcus Cousins led all scorers with 23 points. He also had 19 rebounds and seven assists. Isaiah Thomas added 22 points and five assists. Patrick Patterson scored 21 points in 31 minutes of playing time. Expect to see more of Patterson on Sunday versus the Lakers.
The Clippers finished with their five starters all in double figures. Chris Paul was the leading scorer with 22 points and nine assists. That ended Paul’s streak of the 13 straight games posting a double-double.
The Kings will have no time to recover from their “battle royal” with the Clippers. They have an appointment Sunday night with the Lakers back at the Staples Center.
Notes: The Kings D-League entry – the Reno Bighorns – dropped both games of their season opening back-to-back series in Sioux Falls. Ray McCallum who just joined the Bighorns from the Kings scored 28 points on Friday night and 16 points in Saturday’s game.