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Kings vs Clippers Preview: Can Sacramento bounce back?

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The Kings will look to take the wind out of the Clippers sails in a Friday night match-up against Chris Paul and Company.

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

After a demoralizing loss at the hands of the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, the Kings will now have to face a Clippers squad that have lost six of their last eight and are looking for a spark to right the ship. Not to be outdone, the Kings have gone from winning five of six games to losing three of their last four contests and are searching for answers anywhere they can find them. This game isn’t written in stone as a loss just yet as the Clippers are without Blake Griffin, but with Chris Paul probably making his return from a 4 game injury stint, the Kings will have to be a much different team than the one that came out in their previous game. Let’s talk Kings basketball.

When: Friday, January 6th, 7:30pm PST

Where: Golden 1 Center, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

Kings Focus: The Clippers are the fourth seed in the Western Conference for some very good reasons. Currently sixth in the NBA at 108.2 points per game, Coach Doc Rivers and guard Chris Paul have this offense humming. The Clippers are sixth in three point percentage at 37.8%, eighth in 2 point percentage at 50.7%, while also being 8th and 12th in the NBA in attempts respectively, so they shoot often and hit at a high rate, unlike say, the Miami Heat. If the Kings are going to do that thing where they allow open threes for an entire half before clamping down in the second half, they’ll be losing by thirty at half time. Don’t see what I mean? Well for example, the Kings allowed the Heat eight three point makes in the first half of Wednesday night’s game and they average 8.7 three point makes per game. The Kings have to defend the three point line. It’s said just about every time a preview rolls around. Defend the three point line. Defend it! The Clippers are first in both free throws made and attempted but only 20th in percentage, so expect some foul trouble, especially to whoever is guarding DeAndre Jordan. With Blake Griffin sidelined, Jordan leads his team in free throw attempts and has his average way, way higher than normal, all the way up to 52.3%. Jordan is also partially responsible for the Clippers being the best in the NBA in defensive rebounding, 14th in offensive and third overall, so the Kings are going to have to find a way to struggle through and grab boards. They cannot allow extra possession after extra possession in which an opponent’s guard snuck in for an offensive rebound between two Kings bigs.

Defensively, the Clippers aren’t anything to scoff at. Currently sitting at ninth in the NBA in opponent points per game at 103.0, the Clippers allow teams to shoot only 34.9% from behind the arc, good for ninth in the NBA. They’re third worst in the NBA in the amount of two point attempts that they give up per game, but also only allow teams to shoot 48.4%, which is good for fifth best. The Clippers are eighth in the league in steals with Chris Paul swiping 2.2 a game, and fourteenth in blocks, where DeAndre Jordan blocks 1.8 shots a game, followed by Luc Mbah a Moute and Wes Johnson each with .6 blocks a game. This team is held together by its stars and if the Kings could get either in foul trouble early, it would be a huge boost needed for a win tonight. Wow, wouldn’t you know it the real Achilles heel for the Clippers this season has been player fouls where they are currently the fourth most foul happy team in the NBA.

For the Kings, its pretty simple. Show up and defend at a high pace for the entirety of the game. Allowing opposing teams to get out and open 10 point holes early on has been a big problem for Sacramento all season long, and while it makes for thrilling television from time to time, it also more often than not winds up as a check mark in the loss column. I can’t remember the last time the Kings played a solid defensive game from start to finish, but I can recall a dozen times this season that they could or should have won a game if they hadn’t spotted their opponent a big lead in the first half. Against the Clippers, its rebounding and defending the three point line. Execute on defending the barrage of shooters the Clips will send out, and grab their misses. Allowing Chris Paul extra opportunities to find players in scoring opportunities will spell disaster pretty quickly, and so will the Kings use of the “p” word.

Prediction: The Kings will reverse Kings themselves tonight and start off well defensively and keep it close in the first half, but will struggle coming into the fourth quarter. Seeing DeAndre tired and afraid of his ability to shoot the three, DeMarcus will start dicing the Clippers center up, going by him when he’s too far up, pulling for three when he’s anticipating a drive. Malachi Richardson won’t play a minute, because, well Coach said he would. Kings win this one on executing late in the fourth:

Kings: 105, Clippers: 100