This will be the 4th and final meeting between the Clippers and the Kings this season. Last season the Kings held a 3-1 advantage in the series, but this season the Clippers are up 3-0 going into this game. In the 3 previous games the Kings failed to shoot above 41% from the field while the Clippers shot 51%, 45% and 48%. Eric Gordon was LA’s leading scorer in all 3 games with Blake Griffin a close 2nd. Evans led the Kings in 2 of the 3 games and was 2nd to Omri in the third game. The Clippers have a 22 rebound advantage over the 3 games but the offensive boards are about even. The Kings limited their turnovers to 12, 12 and 9 and had a 33-48 advantage in turnovers in the three games.
The last game back on Dec 27th in Sac was a 100-99 loss. The game ended with Evans getting a favorable call and being sent to the FT Line to shoot 3 with 1.9 seconds left. He made the first two but missed the 3rd FT attempt. DeMarcus got the rebound and tried to tip it in but Griffin had Cousins left arm trapped in Griffins armpit, and DeMarcus wasn’t able to get any lift and missed the tip. Evans rebounded the missed tip and had one more attempt but that missed also.
On Jan. 22nd Gordon hurt his wrist, and what was first thought to be a sprain turned into a bone chip and eventually a fracture. And, what was thought to be a 3 week recovery has stretched into 5 weeks. In Gordon’s absence the Clippers PPG dropped to 93.7 in February, their lowest PPG of the season, and their shooting percentage dropped below 44%. Since Gordon’s injury the Clippers are 4-13 and 2-11 on the road.
During LA’s 3-week 10 game road trip in February, Cleveland snapped their NBA-record losing streak at 26 games with a 126-119 overtime win over the Clippers. Cleveland point guard Mo Williams had nine assists in the first-half, and finished with 17 points and a game-high 14 assists in 31 minutes off the bench.
Then in one of the surprise trades at the Feb 24th deadline, the Clips sent Baron Davis to Cleveland for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. Neither Williams nor Moon have played in the 2 games since being acquired so it’s uncertain if either will see action against the Kings. But, the Clippers are targeting the Kings game for Gordon’s return. Chris Kaman returned to the lineup just before the All-Star break, as did forward Craig Smith, who was out of the lineup for two months because of a herniated disk in his lower back. So, the Clippers seem to be getting healthy just in time to meet the Kings.
During Gordon’s absence Randy Foye started all 14 games in February at SG and averaged 16.6 pts in 36.6 mpg. He’s shooting just under 40% from the field and 35.8% from three point range. In the 5 games since his return Kaman has averaged 10.4 pts 6 rebs in 20.2 mpg off the bench, and Smith has seen action in only 3 games, averaging 4.7 pts and 1.3 rebs in 5.7 mpg.
Prior to the trade, LA had started DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Ryan Gomes on the frontline and Baron Davis and Randy Foye in the backcourt. Since the trade, Eric Bledsoe has replaced Davis as the starting PG with Kaman, Smith, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Willie Warren the main reserves off the bench.
For the Kings, there’s some good news and bad news and maybe some more bad news. Tyreke is expected to miss at least 2 more weeks while receiving treatment for his PF. The good news is that the Kings have made 2 strong acquisitions to beef up the roster at SG. Jermaine Taylor was picked up in December and Marcus Thornton was acquired for Carl Landry at the trade deadline.
Houston paid $2.5M to acquire the rights to Taylor who was the 32nd pick in the 2009 draft, but Taylor was buried behind Kevin Martin and Courtney Lee in Houston’s depth chart. So when Houston was able to work out a deal with NJ to acquire Terrence Williams they cleared a roster space by sending Jermaine Taylor and cash to Sacramento in exchange for a future protected second round pick. Taylor is very athletic and strong, but hasn’t shown the ability to play the point, and at 6-4 he’s a somewhat undersized SG. His game is similar to Tyreke’s in that he attacks the rim and he’s aggressive on the defensive end. In the last 5 games starting in place of Evans, he’s averaging 14.4 pts 3 rebs in 30 mpg. He’s shooting an impressive 52.6% from the field and 46.7% from beyond the arc.
Marcus Thornton was the 43rd pick in the 2009 draft, and at 6-4 is also an undersized SG. Thornton isn’t as athletic as Taylor, but he can score and averaged 59% on 4.4 attempts at the rim and 56% eFG% from beyond the arc on 4.3 attempts in his rookie season with the Hornets. Taylor has a 2 month advantage practicing under PW’s system, so I’d expect Jermaine to continue to start with Marcus coming off the bench. This should also bring to an end the career of Luther Head as a King.
The most impressive of the new guards is Beno, who in Tyreke’s absence has transformed himself and up his game. In the last 5 games he’s averaged 15.6 pts and 7.8 assists in 34.6 mpg. He’s shooting 60% from the field and 44.4% from beyond the arc. But, whether that will be enough to carry the team is tough to say. Because the last bit of bad news is JT left the Memphis game with a sprained ankle, so he’s questionable. And, so is the mood that DeMarcus will play with in this game.
Among PF’s DeMarcus is 2nd to only Amare in USG and ranks 2nd only to Andrea Bargnani among centers. Basically, it means that the Kings have been putting the ball in the rookies hand at a high percentage and asking him to create. Unfortunately being a rookie he’s making rookie mistakes and that’s creating turnovers. But, his turnover Rate isn’t bad for a center putting him outside the top 40 worst. Even so, PW pulled him after this 6th TO in a recent game, and when DeMarcus got the ball in the high post in the Memphis game, he made no attempts at making an entry pass or to drive to the basket. Whether this was at the request of the coach or some type of passive aggressive behavior on DeMarcus’ part isn’t clear. What is known is that PW is starting Sammy instead of DeMarcus, and if Cousins continues to limit his aggressiveness off the bench the Kings will lose a very valuable weapon.
There are a lot of unknowns going into this game. Will Gordon return and if he does how rusty will he be after a 5 week lay-off. Will Mo Williams finally don a Clippers uni and see some action. Will JT play and will DeMarcus play with his normal enthusiasm or will he just go thru the motions. Can the new 3 guard rotation of Beno, Taylor and Thornton propel the Kings into shooting better than 41%. And, who’s going to step up for the Kings, and stop Jordan, Kaman and Griffin from dominating the boards.
What is known is that due to the efforts of TZ and the group from “Here We Stay”, the Kings will be playing in front of the biggest crowd of Kings Fans since the Season Opener when we defeated Toronto 111-108. So, let’s hope the crowd is the deciding factor in the Kings win over the Clippers. Let’s Go Kings.