In one of the ugliest, chippiest games of the season, the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Kings at home for the second time this season. The Clippers were on the second night of a back-to-back, having lost to the Lakers the night before, and the Kings had come off of a loss to the Suns on Tuesday. Both teams wanted to win this game, and it got physical almost immediately and didn't let up throughout.
The Kings did a pretty good job handling the Clippers stars, with Blake Griffin finishing with just 14 points and 9 rebounds, but Griffin was clutch during the stretch, nailing several key jumpers. Chris Paul struggled mightily, scoring just 13 points on 16 shots, but he did have 8 assists and 5 steals. Randy Foye led the Clippers in scoring with 20 points and Caron Butler (14 points) and Eric Bledsoe (13 points) provided an offensive punch as well.
DeMarcus Cousins had about as bad of a follow-up performance to his 41 point game as he could have; The big fella played just 18 and a half minutes before fouling out, scored just 8 points, grabbed just 3 rebounds and had a whopping 5 turnovers. The Clippers threw double teams at him early and often, and clearly frustrated him with their physical play and trash talking. Jason Thompson would end up playing 39 minutes due to Cousins' foul trouble, and was impressive with 15 points, 16 rebounds and a couple blocks. Chuck Hayes also saw 27 big minutes off the bench, and did an impressive defensive job on Blake Griffin, as well as chipping in 6 points, 7 boards, 2 assists and a steal. Isaiah Thomas led the Kings in scoring with 17 points but had just 1 assists.
Ball movement was an issue for the Kings all night long. They were sloppy and careless with the basketball, and reverted to isolation plays too often. As such they finished with just 19 assists to 18 turnovers. The Clippers were even worse, with 17 assists to 18 turnovers, but they made a higher percentage of their shots (45% to 41.7%) and got to the line more (24 FTA to 15 for Sacramento).
The officiating was rough for such a physical game. There were lousy calls/non-calls on both sides of the ball, but the particularly aggravating calls to me were the ones that came late. There were too particularly bad late whistles tonight. The first was when DeMarcus Cousins set up to take a charge, took the brunt of the contact as Bledsoe threw up the shot, and wasn't called for the blocking foul until after the shot missed and the rebound was grabbed a couple seconds later. The other was a three by Chris Paul where he initiated the contact, and he didn't get the whistle until the ball had missed and the rebound was grabbed. Late whistles infuriate everyone, even if it was the right call to make at the time.
My biggest problem with the officials though was the fact that it seemed like they didn't have control of the game. I am shocked that only one technical foul was called, and that on Francisco Garcia for delivering a hard foul after a whistle had already been called. I think a technical or two on both sides throughout the game would have calmed the situation on both sides. DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Keith Smart, Kenyon Martin and Chris Paul all probably deserved technicals at some point in this game.
Sacramento again was without its leading scorer in Marcus Thornton, and it was nights like tonight when the offense really struggled at times that the Kings could have really used something. Marcus is probably the best player on the team at creating something out of nothing, and he's also the Kings most reliable spot-up threat. John Salmons also missed the game, his 6th in a row. Salmons is out with a "sore hip" and I wonder if he's done for the year since the Kings have nothing really left to play for other than developing the young guys.
In a change-up from Tuesday's starting lineup when Donté Greene (who started in Thornton's place), and Travis Outlaw saw a lot of minutes, tonight saw Francisco Garcia get the start while Outlaw didn't play at all and Greene had just 5 minutes. Garcia had a poor shooting night, scoring just 6 points on 9 shots, but his help defense at times was great, with 3 steals and 2 blocks. Tyler Honeycutt and Hassan Whiteside also saw three minutes of playing time each tonight and weren't impressive.
Terrence Williams saw 24 minutes off the bench and had a bit of a rough start, forcing the issue at times, but he found his rhythm late in the game as he was a crucial part of the Kings attempted comeback in the 4th quarter. Williams has done a little bit of everything since coming to Sacramento, and that didn't change tonight as he finished with 11 points, 3 boards, 3 assists, 3 turnovers and 3 steals.
Jimmer Fredette also had a very rough start to this game, playing lousy defense, missing his shots, and turning over the ball a couple times in his first stint. His second stint was much better and he was also a big part of the unit that brought the Kings back into this game, even hitting a three pointer to give the Kings the lead back at one point. I also liked that he used his floater a couple times and did a good job of setting up his teammates (4 assists). Jimmer also was more active on defense the second time around, although he was helped by the zone defense the Kings played much of the 4th quarter, due in part to the very small lineup they had out there. The zone defense of the Kings really bothered Los Angeles for most of the 4th though, especially since the Clippers weren't hitting their outside shots.
The lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, Terrence Williams, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes is a bit weird on paper, but it brought the Kings back into this game towards the end of the 3rd quarter and through the first half of the 4th quarter. Up by 5 points heading into the final period, the Clippers struck first as Eric Bledsoe got to the rack and hit a layup. Sacramento answered right back as Terrence Williams set up Jimmer for a short jumper and hit his own jumper after Chuck Hayes stole the ball away on the other end. That cut it to three. The Kings almost forced another bad Clippers possession after that, but were bailed out by the aforementioned Chris Paul three point shooting foul.
Paul hit 2 of 3 to put Los Angeles up 5 points again. Jimmer found Terrence Williams for a mid-range jumper, and after a missed shot by the Clippers, Isaiah found Chuck Hayes at the basket for a layup. A couple botched possessions by both teams later, Chuck Hayes returned the favor to Isaiah by setting him up for a shot on the baseline that swished home and gave the Kings their first lead since the 1st quarter. It didn't last long however as Kenyon Martin nailed a jumper off-the-dribble in response. Chuck Hayes then posted Blake Griffin up and nailed a short hook over him. If anything says you need to work on your defense, it's when Chuck Hayes successfully posts you up and scores on you.
The Clippers finally managed to hit an open three on the Kings zone defense as Nick Young knocked one down from the wing, and then Randy Foye hit a layup after Terrence Williams hit a shot to make it a two-possession game again at 78-74. The Kings tried a couple times to hit their own threes, but missed both. Fortunately Jason Thompson found himself in good position on the 2nd miss and tipped it in.
Nick Young tried another three, this time from the opposite wing, but it was too long and the rebound came out to Terrence Williams. I love it when Williams grabs rebounds, because he immediately starts a fastbreak possession. On this one, he set up Jimmer for a big three, and Jimmer delivered to put the Kings back up on top with 4:35 left.
Before Jimmer's three, Smart was set to put Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins in, but opted to instead put just DeMarcus in as Jimmer had played decently. His faith was rewarded in part out of the timeout as the Clippers missed and Jimmer fed Isaiah Thomas for a jumper to put Sacramento up 3, it's largest lead of the game.
This is when Blake Griffin became clutch. Blake went on a personal 6-0 run on the Kings, hitting two long jumpers and one nice post score to put L.A. back up again for good. The shots by Griffin were quite surprising as those are technically the shots you want him taking. Griffin was shooting just 34% from 16-23 feet coming into tonight's game and 30.6% from 10-15 feet (statistics from HoopData), but he nailed the two jumpers he took there.
DeMarcus Cousins finally scored inside on the Clippers to end Griffin's run and make it a one point game again. L.A. again fed Griffin up on the top of the key, and Cousins made a slow swipe at the ball. Griffin covered his eye and the officials called a foul on DeMarcus Cousins. Whether you think it was a foul or not, DeMarcus had a hilarious quote in a post-game interview saying that "the wind from my hand must have brushed his eye".
It was a non-shooting foul, but it was still big because it took away the Kings foul to give, something that might have come in handy down the stretch of this one. Chris Paul took it to the hoop out of the inbounds play, and it was 86-83 Clippers with 1:02 remaining. Tyreke tried to answer back with a layup of his own, but missed it point blank. Tyreke had a rough game overall, shooting just 5 of 13 on his way to 14 points. He did have a team-high 6 assists though.
Isaiah Thomas had a huge defensive possession on the other end, coming up with a steal on Chris Paul and getting it up to Tyreke Evans, who again just barely missed the layup but this time drew the foul. Tyreke made up for his last miss by knocking down both free throws.
The Clippers called timeout with 18 seconds left to set up an inbounds play. The Kings did a great job of covering the inbound and forced a lob pass to the opposite corner that Tyreke Evans almost managed to steal but unfortunately couldn't, landing out of bounds. On the second inbounds, I thought the Kings again did a good job of defending it, but Paul was able to find Randy Foye and Terrence Williams was forced to foul. Foye hit both free throws and now it was the Kings turn to set up an inbounds play.
The Kings tried a few options that were covered at first, and then tried to get the ball down low to DeMarcus Cousins. Terrence threw the ball to DeMarcus, who was being fronted by Blake Griffin, and DeMarcus was unable to handle the ball as it went out of bounds. Keith Smart was as furious as I've ever seen him, feeling that Cousins had been held by Griffin on the play. The Kings were forced to foul from there on out, and that was all she wrote.
Kenyon Martin decided to shoot a three as time expired and nailed it as well. There's a bit of an unspoken rule in basketball that when you're going to win, you don't shoot with the game winding down. It was salt in the wound for the Kings, and I very much look forward to the rematch in Los Angeles on Saturday. I wouldn't mind a better result.
- How come Kenyon Martin magically makes all his jumpers against the Kings?
- Remember last game when I said I couldn't think of a worse lineup than Jimmer/Terrence/Outlaw/Hayes/Whiteside? The Kings may have beaten it in the 2nd quarter with Jimmer/Honeycutt/Terrence/Greene/Hayes.
- It was an ugly game for the most part, but I'm sure glad I didn't have to add to that ugliness by listening to Bill Walton on the broadcast. For that I'm thankful.
- Speaking of last game, I forgot to mention how Isaiah has developed a "skyhook layup".
- Tyreke had a few nice scores on off the ball cuts to the basket. Tyreke also had a few terrible jumper attempts. He probably should ask for his money back from the Shot Doc.
- Less Clippers fans in attendance than I would have expected. A lot of fans in jerseys of players/teams not even the game though, my biggest pet peeve. I saw a Jazz shirt, a Stephen Curry jersey and a Larry Bird among others.
- Chris Paul might be the biggest complainer in the NBA. And that's saying something from a guy who has watched DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson in almost every one of their NBA games.
- Eric Bledsoe is going to be a nice player in this league, probably more as a scoring punch than a distributor.
- If DeMarcus has even an average game for him, we win. Very disappointing performance for Cuz.
- Cisco pump faked a three in the corner before moving his foot so his toe was on the line and then making it. I think he does it on purpose.
- Isaiah defended Chris Paul about as well as anyone could have. He also outscored him. I think we may have something in this guy. Just a thought.