The Sacramento Kings might not embody the same “Grit-n-Grind” mentality that the Memphis Grizzlies operated under for so many years, but boy do they at least have the “Grit” part down pat. The Kings overcame an 18 point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Clippers in what was one of their best wins of the season.
Sacramento finished the game on a 22-3 run, capped off by Willie Cauley-Stein putting back a Ben McLemore layup attempt with 1.8 seconds left to give the Kings the lead for good. Chris Paul missed a jumper on the other end on what was a pretty good look for the Clippers. It was only fitting that Cauley-Stein’s game-winner came off a rebound, as it was Willie’s best rebounding game of the season with 14, 13 of which came on the defensive end.
The Kings once again sat some veterans and didn’t play Kosta Koufos, Arron Afflalo or Ty Lawson (although in Lawson’s case it was apparently a knee injury). Rookie Skal Labissiere struggled against the strength and size of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and scored just 2 points on 1-7 shooting before fouling out in 19 minutes.
Georgios Papagiannis and Anthony Tolliver fared a little better. Tolliver kept the Kings alive in the first half with his hot outside shooting, bailing the Kings out of several offensive sets. He finished with 15 points on 5-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Big Papa played 21 minutes and had an effective game with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks and 4 assists.
Darren Collison led the Kings in scoring with 19 points on 8-11 shooting, but most of that came in the first half. The Kings fought hard on defense all game, and only allowed the Clippers to shoot 41% all night. L.A. only held a two point lead going into halftime.
The game opened up a bit more for the Clippers in the second half. DeAndre Jordan was getting easy dunks all night and finished with 20 points on 8-10 shooting. Austin Rivers started in the injured J.J. Redick’s place and wasn’t able to replicate Redick’s production, shooting just 4-13 overall and 2-7 from the field. He did however have this hilarious moment before the game with Grant and Jerry.
For the Kings, their hero was really Buddy Hield. Hield struggled mightily early on in the game, starting out just 1-7 overall. The Kings managed to chip into the Clippers lead in the fourth quarter, cutting the game to a managable nine points. At that point, Hield had the sequence of the game, hitting a three, and then intercepting the lazy inbounds pass to go and hit another three to cut the game to just three points. Hield ended up with 15 points and 7 rebounds in 23 minutes.
On the other end of the floor, Willie Cauley-Stein fouled Blake Griffin to prevent a sure bucket. It turned out to be a really good foul as Griffin only hit one of the free throws and the Clippers never ended up scoring again. Papagiannis found Langston Galloway on the other end for a three to cut it to a one point game before the game went back and forth for a while with neither team able to score.
Finally, Crawford missed a three in the corner and the rebound went to Buddy Hield who immediately pushed the ball ahead to Ben McLemore. McLemore went for the shot off the glass but it was too strong. Fortunately it ended up in the hands of Willie Cauley-Stein who mopped up and gave the Kings their first lead since the first half and proved to be the game-winner as L.A. couldn’t convert on the other end.
This was a great win for the Kings. No, it doesn’t help the lottery pick cause, but dammit if it isn’t fun to see these guys enjoy playing with each other and not giving up. These games could be slogs, but these guys are fighting each and every night and that’s all we can ask for.
The Kings won’t have much time to celebrate, as they’re coming home tomorrow to face the Memphis Grizzlies. But this was a gritty, fun game that should make them proud.