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Kings 109, Clippers 114: Kings lose a nailbiter

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The Kings were right in it to the very end despite missing their best player, but weren't sharp enough to win the game.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Stepping back from the emotions of this game, I think the Sacramento Kings had a very productive outing. Without DeMarcus Cousins after halftime, the scrappy Kings fought tooth and nail with the Clippers until the very end, even after going down by double digits. Unfortunately, they crumbled late, because of a lot of things. Disappointing, but I can't wait to go back to the film in more detail. Here are some quick observations:

  • Rajon Rondo is on a mission. He was the Kings' best player on the court tonight and straight up willed the team into competition. His basketball IQ is unbelievably freaky and his defense on Chris Paul was a masterpiece. He caused several turnovers just by knowing the Clippers plays as well as he did. Just as an example: Down the stretch, the Clippers ran an out-of-bounds play, and Rondo twice diagnosed it. The first time, Paul completely bowled over Darren Collison only to get a foul call. The second time Rondo anticipated Paul's pass, intercepted it, and found a streaking Collison in transition to put the Kings within three.
  • Rudy Gay powered the Kings with his offense, but took some baaaaaad shots down the stretch. The Kings really needed to run the show through Rondo and Collison, while using Gay as a finisher, but Rudy took it upon himself to isolate and take some ill-advised fadeaways.
  • The Kings' bench guards (Collison and Marco Belinelli) have started the season less than ideally shooting the ball, but still somehow the bench overall continues to kick serious ass. Kosta Koufos has been terrific with his defense and rebounding.
  • The Kings wasted several possessions down the stretch just because of general sloppiness. Just off the top of my head, there was the turnover off of Belinelli's knees, the inexcusable botched hack-a-DeAndre move under two minutes to go giving the Clippers an extra point, Belinelli's three with his toe on the line... just so many plays down the stretch that lacked attention to detail. The Kings didn't deserve to win this.
  • That being said, those refs man. Just brutal. The Kings went into halftime with FOUR of their starters sitting with three fouls. There were so, so many headscratching calls. I'm very interested to see the league's ref report after this one.
  • Cousins went out at halftime, but I didn't like the way he was playing. He should never have more three point attempts than free throws. That's inexcusable, and whether its on Cousins or Karl, someone needs to fix it. It might have just been that he was playing injured, but that should never happen.
I will tell you this. I do not fear the Los Angeles Clippers. That's two games now where the Kings haven't been outclassed because of talent, but because of execution and decision-making. And the Clippers are one of the five best teams in the NBA. Its a very welcome feeling following years of playing the outmatched underdog getting by with scrap.

The Kings next play against the Grizzlies on Tuesday. Welcome to the Western Conference, y'all. No rest for the weary.