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It Wasn't Pretty, but Kings Defeat Undermanned Clippers, 110-103

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

It was ugly, again. The Kings made it exponentially harder than it needed to be, again, but despite the now extremely frequent dramatics, the Sacramento Kings defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 110-103 on the road, improving their record to 17-23, leapfrogging the Portland Trailblazers in the standings, and now sit just one game behind the Utah Jazz for the eighth-seed in the Western Conference. How bout it?

First and foremost, I thought the Kings played at an appropriate energy level tonight. That’s important. Strategy and systemic issues aside, I liked the way this team played. I’ll say that. I saw a lot of guys hitting the glass, blocking shots, saving balls from going out of bounds, etc. These are things you shouldn’t have to highlight, but the Kings have put together enough no-show performances this season that you kind of have to mention it. That has become less of an issue recently, and it wasn’t an issue tonight.

The Clippers were severely undermanned in this one, and while a road win versus the Clippers will look great in the record books, it’s important to realize exactly who the Kings were playing tonight. They started two former Kings’ 12th men (Cole Aldrich, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute) if you wanted any further context. Without Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, this isn’t the same team. They aren’t even in the same ballpark.

Without Griffin or Jordan, I have a hard time knowing what to take away from a win like this, if anything. The Kings had a small lead for most of the game. To their credit, they kept that small cushion all the way through the final whistle. It got close. It got too close, considering the talent on the other side, but I can’t help but leave this game with a sour taste in my mouth from an execution standpoint.

This game was one wide-open Paul Pierce three from the top of the key away from being another Sacramento King disaster. The Clippers ran a good play, and Chris Paul is a gifted passer, but I do start to feel like I’m going insane watching the same issues plague this team over and over again. They build up leads, they lose said leads, and I’d take nearly every team in the league over the Kings when it comes down to late game execution. If the game is close in crunch time, odds are the other team is going to handle that moment better. It’s such an uneasy feeling.

If there is any silver lining it's that they are keeping this playoff thing within an arms reach. They deserve some amount of credit for that considering how exhausting every win feels. If they ever figure this out, they're doing just enough stay in the mix that a good stretch of basketball could propel this team into the playoffs. Crazy.

Notes –

  • DeMarcus Cousins was really effective as a passer out of the post tonight. This goes back to the late game execution (or lack thereof) that I was talking about earlier. Late game offense should be a DeMarcus Cousins post opportunity nine times out of ten. It's not hard, or at least it shouldn't be. His willingness as a passer from that position is just as deadly as his ability to score. He was finding shooters all night.
  • Omri Casspi. What else can you say about this guy that hasn't already been said? His three-point shot was really on tonight, and it was the best he's looked since he returned to the lineup last week. He has been as frustrated as anyone with all of the Kings' defensive breakdowns, and we saw him have some words with Rajon Rondo tonight about a failed rotation. The Kings need good leaders, and Casspi was already providing that by example. If he can become a vocal leader for this team, and play a part in keeping everyone accountable, well, Sacramento will only love him more. I appreciated that part of his game tonight.
  • This was a really good role player game from Ben McLemore. He was flying all over the rim in transition, he was aggressive with his drives the basket, and he probably made one of the most impressive passes of his career to a rolling-on-the-baseline DeMarcus Cousins. This is why he is a hard guy to give up on, for as much as I've doubted him in the past.
  • I feel obligated to note Willie Cauley-Stein's minutes. I thought he was solid again tonight, registering 3 blocks a handful of other positive defensive plays, but he only saw 13 minutes of action.
  • Darren Collison was my MVP tonight. He really carried the Kings through a stagnant stretch in the first half, and kept that momentum rolling into the second half. He also made Chris Paul's job about as difficult as you could expect.