Kings 94, Clippers 109: Kings Defense Babies Clippers Offense by Not Playing

April 7, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Randy Foye (4) defends a shot by Sacramento Kings point guard Tyreke Evans (13) in the first quarter at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

This was ugly in a whole different way than the game between these two teams in Sacramento on Thursday. After keeping the game competitive for much of the first three quarters, Los Angeles went out on a huge tear towards the end of the third and into the final quarter, taking it from a one point game at 72-71 to as much as 106-83 in the final period. The fourth quarter was an absolute joke in terms of defensive effort and offensive cohesion on the Kings part.

Blake Griffin absolutely got the best of DeMarcus Cousins in this much hyped up re-match. Griffin had 27 points (on 12 of 15 from the field), 14 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in 35 minutes of play. He was a highlight machine all night, and most of his field goals had to be dunks. Cousins meanwhile got off to a rough start and stayed that way. He forced a lot of his game offensively and went just 5 of 19 from the field for 15 points. He did have a career-high 20 rebounds, but it was still a poor effort.

Sacramento's offense was poor throughout the night, but it was the defense that really cast a pall on this game. Los Angeles shot almost 50% from the field as a team, hit 40.7% of their threes, and had a ridiculous 34 assists on their 44 made field goals. Chris Paul led the charge there of course, with 15 assists to go with 19 points (17 of which came in the 2nd half), 5 rebounds and 7 steals. Randy Foye had another big night against the Kings with 25 points on 9 of 14 shooting (7 of 9 from three!). Grant Napear made a point on the telecast that Foye has scored more against the Kings this year than any other Kings opponent. Considering he is averaging 10.3 points on the season, that's embarrassing.

The Kings relied way too heavily on isolation ball throughout the game, and I'm honestly surprised to see they even had 20 assists (but 19 turnovers). Terrence Williams had 9 of those for Sacramento, including 8 in the 2nd quarter. He was the only one really bothering to set up his teammates up for easy shots. No other Kings player had more than 2 assists. A lot of credit has to go to the Clippers defense for not leaving guys open and making it tough for Sacramento, but there needs to be more than a token effort to find someone open before resorting to tough, contested shots or isolation basketball.

Sacramento was again without Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and likely lost Francisco Garcia for a few games as well. Garcia was hit on the head by an elbow while lying on the ground in the 4th quarter, and was diagnosed with a concussion in the locker room. It's almost guaranteed he will not play tomorrow, and possibly not for the three game road trip afterwards. Garcia had actually played a decent game to that point as well, finishing with 13 points and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes.

Tyreke Evans did a marvelous job of penetrating to the hoop tonight, but blew several layups on getting to the rim. He finished with 14 points but did little else of significance. He had only 1 assist to 6 turnovers, leading the Kings in that category. He was closely followed by Terrence Williams with 5, who got particularly sloppy in the 2nd half in trying to force passes that weren't there to be made.

Jimmer Fredette got off to a hot start in the 2nd quarter in helping the Kings cut an early deficit. Fredette hit his first four shots from the field for 10 points, but didn't score again in the game. His defense was particularly troublesome, but that was a team wide problem. About the only player that performed well on the defensive side of the ball tonight was Isaiah Thomas, who was a major factor in limiting Chris Paul in the first few quarters. Paul got going late in the game after Isaiah left the game and there was no stopping him then.

Jason Thompson had a very rough go tonight, registering only a single rebound and 5 fouls in 15 minutes of action. With Hayes out for the game, that really hurt Sacramento's big man depth as they had to rely on the likes of Donté Greene and Travis Outlaw at the PF spot for long stretches of the game. Both players actually had relatively strong performances for them, at least offensively: Greene finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes and Outlaw had 14 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes.

For much of the first half, the Kings went back to the zone defense that had bothered the Clippers so much in Sacramento, but it was clearly not working this time. Los Angeles was eviscerating the zone, penetrating at will and thanks to Foye, killing the Kings from the perimeter as well. I was disappointed at how long Keith Smart had the team stick to it when it was proving to be such a liability.

The Kings went into the half after a strong 2nd quarter down just five points, and cut that to 1 after Francisco Garcia hit a three pointer at the 2:41 mark. The Clippers called a quick timeout and after that, it became the Chris Paul show. Paul immediately set up Randy Foye for another three to answer back. Then he proceeded to score the Clippers next 7 points to finish the quarter while the Kings managed just 3 more points, making it 82-74 LA heading into the final period.

The break did nothing to cool Paul down. Both teams got off to rough starts, and it was at this point that Garcia left the game with a concussion. Keith Smart received a technical, furious that there was no foul called on Foye for hitting Garcia in the head. Paul hit the tech and scored again out of the inbounds. After Donté Greene drove to the basket for a bucket for Sacramento, Paul found Foye for yet another three to push the lead to double digits for the first time. Greene tried to answer back with a three of his own but it was no good. Greene was just 1 of 5 from downtown for the night.

DeMarcus Cousins hit a couple of free throws to cut it to 10, but LA turned it up a notch at that point. Bledsoe found Griffin at the basket for a ridiculous one-handed alley-oop, and after Paul stole the ball from Tyreke Evans on the other end, he threw it off the backboard to Eric Bledsoe for another dunk. This got the whole Clippers team and fanbase energized, and it was pretty much game over from there, particularly after they hit a few more threes while Sacramento's offense continued to do nothing.

This was an embarrassing effort on both ends of the court for the Kings, particularly down the stretch. This loss marks the first time the Clippers have swept the Kings in a season since the inaugural 1985-86 season. Sacramento will get a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow at home against Houston, and considering how little effort they put on the defensive end of the ball tonight, fatigue should not be a problem.

Random Observations:

  • I have a 9 out of 10 confidence level that DeMarcus clocking Blake in the face after getting fouled was intentional.
  • As good of a job as Isaiah did on Paul defensively, Paul did a fantastic job on Isaiah. Then again, Isaiah wasn't particularly aggressive tonight.
  • Blake's circus shot after Donté mauled him with the flagrant foul should have counted out of pure ridiculousness.
  • I have trouble seeing Fredette as anything but a scorer in this league. He's going to need a lot of work if he indeed wants to become a point guard.
  • The Kings need to do a much better job of passing into the post. So many times they take 4 or 5 seconds to try to get the ball inside, allowing the defense to force the post man away from the hoop and for the help to get more set. Pass it quicker.
  • Tyreke has such a good horizontal hangtime he can pumpfake a layup while in the air.
  • DeMarcus needs to learn to pass out when he doesn't have something. He also doesn't need to take every single jumper in the world simply because the other team left him open. I'm guessing most defenses would live with a possession ending in a DeMarcus jumper because 60% of the time it will work out.
  • Chris Paul has to be the master of poking the ball from an opponents hand after he's been beat. I have to think he let's guys beat him for that reason sometimes. When you're that good at it, why not? 7 steals is nothing to sneeze at.
  • Shoutout to #FANS who took the trip to L.A. and were shown on the broadcast.
  • NBA Lottery Implications of the night: New Orleans beat Minnesota, putting them at 15 wins and the Warriors beat Denver, putting them at 22. It now looks like we can at least count out the Warriors from teams we'll catch in the standings, because I don't see us winning 4 more games this year and I don't see the Warriors going winless. The Hornets probably can't catch us either but you never know, since they do have Eric Gordon back and we are riddled with injuries.
  • The GBU Week 15 will be out on Monday. Have a nice Easter everyone. For the Nostradumbass prediction, I predict a loss against Houston tomorrow.

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