With the Kings loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, Sacramento now sits at four games back of the eighth seed and must now face the Chris Paul led Clippers. Coming into Sleep Train Arena at 5-4 over the month of February, and still very much without All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, Friday night's game against Los Angeles is one that is very much a winnable game, if Sacramento can put forth even a semblance of energy and effort. Whoa! Check your blood pressure, it was a joke! You know, like the Sacramento Kings defensive schemes! [Akis, please don't fire me]
In all seriousness, a win against the fourth seed in West might not gain back much of support that has been lost in the last few months, but with games against Oklahoma City, Memphis and Dallas on the horizon, it could at least help further beg the question "Can the Kings' actually pull it off?" among the fans. If the eighth seed is Sacramento's destiny, then momentum needs to be built, and quick. A win against the Griffin-less Clippers, an upset in Oklahoma City, beating up an injured Memphis squad: the snowball effect will have to start somewhere. This game can be seen at Sleep Train Arena or on CSN-CA, can be heard on KHTK 1140 and begins at 7pm. Let's talk Kings basketball.
By the Numbers:
So get this; the Los Angeles Clippers are 7th in the league in points per game, opponent points per game, and both offensive and defensive rating. Pack it in, everyone. Lady Luck is on their side for this one. In addition to some pleasing numerical symmetry, the Clippers also have some legitimate power on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. They're fifth in the league in total field goal percentage, sixth in two point percentage and fifth in three point percentage. They're also 10th in the league in three pointers attempted, taking over 26 a game so far this season. Led by All-Star point guard Chris Paul, the Clippers are also ninth in the league in assists, and have the sixth fewest turnovers per game this season at just over 13 a game. For reference, the Kings are 27th in the league in turnovers at 16.5 a game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Clippers are ninth in the league in steals and tenth in blocks, and allow teams to shoot only 43.5% from the field, good for fourth best in the league. To go a bit further, the Clippers allow teams to shoot only 47% from inside the arc (good for third best in the NBA), with teams not fairing much better from three, shooting 34.1% collectively (good for ninth in the NBA). The Clippers aren't perfect however. They give up the 10th most two point shots in the league. They also are one of the five worst teams in the league in how many free throws they give up to opponents while being the very worst in the league in fouls committed. They also aren't a very good offensive or defensive rebounding team, being 21st and 25 respectively. The Clippers are a very good team, but if the Kings can get hot early, get their bigs into foul trouble (a bit more on that later), and run the Clippers off the three point line, the folks at Sleep Train will have a legitimate game on their hands.
1) Can the Kings take advantage of the Clipper's weaknesses? As the Kings continue to drag themselves through the wasteland of the next few weeks of the schedule, their tired eyes still very much fixed on the setting opportunity to play as the eight seed in the Western Conference playoffs, every precious advantage that can be exploited, must be exploited. In Friday night's game against the Clippers, Blake Griffin's absence should be taken less as a few drops of hope, and more like an oasis for the King's to dive head first into. With Griffin still on the mend and Josh Smith having flown the coop to Houston recently, the power forward options for LA are D-Leaguers Branden Dawson and Alex Stephenson, offensively limited Luc Mbah a Moute, or in the case of them going small; Paul Pierce and the newly acquired Jeff Green. They have Deandre Jordan and Cole Aldrich holding down the center position and though they are solid, NBA quality players, there is nothing about them to be feared. Can Deandre Jordan block shots? Yes. Is he a good man defender? No. If DeMarcus Cousins can find a shooting stroke, the ways to toy with Deandre Jordan are endless. The Kings finding a way to consistently exploit the lack of defensive and offensive weapons in the front court would go a long ways to keeping them in the game, and should be a top priority come tomorrow night.
2) Who's going to stop DeMarcus Cousins? This is very much an add on to the first question, but it has to be asked. DeMarcus Cousins hates the Clippers and has done everything in his power to prove it every time he matches up against them. In the previous matchup's this season against the Clips, DeMarcus has lines of 32-13-3, 13-9-1 (in 15 minutes of play before straining his right achilles) and 19-13-6. He gets up for this team and if he's as serious as he thinks he is about making the playoffs, the combination of annoyance and desperation should be scintillating to watch.
3) How many threes will JJ Redick hit? On more of a downer note, JJ Redick might have himself a barn burner tomorrow. With the Kings' defense still giving up a lot of open threes, and JJ Redick being the most accurate 3 point shooter in the game since the turning of the calendar, he might be primed to put on a fantastic performance. The guy is essentially shooting 48% from three in 2016 and takes six a game. Over/under on this? I'm thinking 1000.
Odds and Ends:
-This game again marks the return of two former Kings, Cole Aldrich and Luc Mbah a Moute.
- This game is being played in Sacramento, at a sea level of 30 feet. Oxygen tanks on standby.
-In Caron Butler news: He's still very much alive.
Prediction: DeMarcus will unleash the beast and jam all up in the Clippers' defense, and while hustling back on defense, will pat Chris Paul on the head saying "D'aww son!" when Paul flips out, his shrill screams piercing even the ears of the deaf. Kings will beat the Clippers like an ugly step son: Kings: 114, Clippers: 105
For the other side, please visit Clips Nation.