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Kings 89, Clippers 92: Let the games begin

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Kings fall to the Clippers to close out the preseason

NBA: Preseason-Los Angeles Clippers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

As usual, its preseason, so throw out the final score. The Kings lost to the Clippers on the Golden 1 Center’s national TV debut, and the broadcast might as well have been a two-hour long promotion for the new arena. That being said, besides the arena histrionics, there was plenty to take away from the actual basketball action.

The game story doesn’t matter all that much; the Kings essentially blew this game in a NSFW-worthy second quarter, and couldn’t shoot well enough in the second half to make up the difference. Well, not until the benches were duking it out at the end of the game. The final score didn’t really show it, but the Clippers handled the Kings pretty comfortably. Here are some observations:

  • Rudy Gay had an incredibly awful game. He shot 3/10 from the field for his 6 points, and his 3 assists were dwarfed by his 6 turnovers. He couldn’t do much right, and got embarrassed several times by Chris Paul trying to take advantage of defensive switches. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a quality wing defender too with good size, and Rudy was unable to use his strength inside, settling for terrible shot after terrible shot. To be fair, there wasn’t much space for him to operate, as the Kings were drawing a complete blank from three point range while he was in the game. But still, the Kings are going to need him to make much better decisions and be more efficient
  • DeMarcus Cousins carried the team in the first and third quarters offensively, ending the game with 23 points on 10/17 shooting, 8 rebounds and 2 assists in 25 minutes of gametime. Defensively, he was paired with Kosta Koufos for much of his time, and the limitations defensively playing two lumbering centers together were glaring. Specifically, Blake Griffin kept beating the pair in transition, they struggled to defend the pick-and-roll in the halfcourt, and struggled to help with J.J. Redick coming off of screens. The pairing was awful together last year, and doesn’t look like it’ll be that successful this year either.
  • The Kings are going to have trouble creating offense with Garrett Temple at point guard if Cousins isn’t in the game. He’s just not likely to break down a defense coming off of screens with the ball, so defenses will largely ignore him. This means more Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, and Omri Casspi dribbling around on the perimeter trying to create a shot.
  • Ty Lawson showed off some serious passing chops in this game, but was rarely rewarded by the shooters he set up. He also showed some real spark defensively, using his quickness to be a pest. He teamed up with Darren Collison in the first quarter to spark the Kings into a nice little lead. The combination was much less successful in the third quarter, mostly because Lawson and Collison both caught the team-wide shooting bug.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein once again had issues with his motor in the first half. It just looks like he drifts around the court at times, losing focus and just generally failing to register any kind of impact on the game. He needs to find a way to stay active with his athleticism, whether its on defense or on the boards, because he’s not going to be looked at as a scorer. He became more active in the second half, grabbing 5 rebounds and playing a big part in the “comeback” towards the end of the game.
  • God, that shooting was frustrating to watch. Anthony Tolliver is officially on Belinelli-watch after his monster shooting display against the Lakers, registering a fresh powdered donut in the box score. McLemore didn’t hit a single three in three attempts, and Omri Casspi only got going once the game was already decided.

Ultimately, I think I’m more bullish on the Kings’ performance than what I’m seeing around the web and social media. They had one nasty quarter where they had 11 (!!!!) of their 22 total turnovers, but rebounded nicely in the second half. I thought they were generating good shots and playing much better on the defensive end, but their shooting let them down, preventing them from putting a dent in the lead the Clippers had already built. The Clippers are a stellar team who will compete for the Western Conference crown, so that kind of shooting is going to bury you against them more often than not.

Still, that second quarter can’t exactly be ignored, so the team should have plenty of film to pore over in the eight days before the season starts. Hold onto your butts because from now on the team plays for keeps.

For the opponent’s perspective, visit Clips Nation