It is good to be a fan of a California based basketball team right now. As of today, all four California teams are slated to be in the playoff picture, an outcome that almost nobody expected. While the Kings have been the biggest surprise, the Clippers are up there as well. Under Doc Rivers, Los Angeles has the third best offense in the league, with a multitude of threats and no clear cut star player. The Clippers already have taken one from the Kings this year on national television, and now it’s time for Sacramento to get some revenge.
Let’s talk Kings basketball!
When: Wednesday, December 26th, 7:30 PM PST
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM
For Your Consideration
The Clippers have fallen off a bit since the last time they played the Kings. After their 133-121 victory over Sacramento sent the Kings to 10-11, the Clippers were sitting pretty atop the West at 15-6. Since then, they have gone just 4-8. The defense, which started out so well, has fallen drastically, as they are now just 26th in terms of defensive rating.
Still, the Clippers are a formidable team, and it’s thanks to their relative depth. Despite having no true star, the Clippers are enjoying good contributions from guys like Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montrezl Harrell. Harrell in particular killed the Kings in their last matchup, scoring 24 points on 8-10 shooting in 26 minutes off the bench. It’s not the first time Harrell has really bothered the Kings, and it likely won’t be the last.
Buddy Hield, who has been so important to Sacramento’s success, could not get going against L.A. in the last matchup. He scored just 10 points in that game and did not make a single three pointer in 7 attempts. That is the only game all season in which Hield has failed to hit a three. He has been on a tear recently, and the Kings will need him to continue if they hope to beat a Clippers squad that is 11-4 at home on the season.
The Kings will also need to figure out how to keep the Clippers off the line. They have the highest free throw attempt rate in the league, with Williams, Harrell and Gallinari all getting to the line for more than 5 attempts a game each. For reference, only De’Aaron Fox gets to the line over 5 attempts a game for the Kings, and Marvin Bagley III (who will not be playing tonight) is second at 4.0 attempts.
In terms of playoff implications, every game is important in the West but this one could be even more so. A win would put the Kings in a tie with the Clippers in the standings while a loss would drop them out of the playoff picture.
Sacramento has won their last two games despite falling behind by as many as 19 points in each game. They fought back and won both of those but it will be much harder to do so on the road. Hopefully the team can get off to a better start and put some pressure on the other team. If it goes the opposite way, I could see Kings coach Dave Joerger opting to rest most of his starters in anticipation of tomorrow’s matchup at home against the Lakers. Hopefully that won’t be an issue and the Kings can come away with a victory tonight.
De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield continue their ascent to stardom, dazzling Hollywood with their high octane style of play. Longtime Clippers fan Billy Crystal is seen putting on a Fox jersey in the middle of the 3rd quarter.
Kings 123, Clippers 114