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Third-quarter Kangz strike again

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Another bad night for the defense leads to another loss.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Kings had two impressive wins over the Clippers, but one of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George was missing in each game.

Against both stars, the Kings didn’t have a chance, losing 138-100 at home. The two Clippers combined for 53 points while no individual King topped 20 points for the evening.

It didn’t look like the Kings would be in trouble early. Sacramento got off to a strong start, taking a quick 11-3 lead. Harrison Barnes got through Nicolas Batum for an and-one to begin the game, setting the tone for Sacramento’s paint attacks early. Marvin Bagley was pretty great on both ends of the floor as well. He made nice rotations on defense, and converted all three of his shot attempts, including one 3-pointer.

With Hassan Whiteside unavailable, the Kings turned to Chimezie Metu off the bench instead of Nemanja Bjelica, and the third-year big delivered. He was a strong finisher in the pick-and-roll and provided some meaningful resistance to Ivica Zubac on the other end. Metu had eight points and two rebounds in that first-quarter shift, keeping the Kings in the game with their starters off the floor.

The second quarter wasn’t as successful for Sacramento, as the Clippers started to get comfortable from long range. They hit seven triples in the period, as the Kings had difficulty tracking shooters with the Clippers were moving the ball well. Sacramento’s offense was perfectly cromulent to the tune of 30 points in the quarter, but the Kings couldn’t get enough stops to close the gap with LA.

Unfortunately, that defensive indifference carried over to the start of the third, when the team essentially imploded from within. The Kings were outscored 37-16 in the period, and once they fell behind by double digits, they never made a legitimate rally to get back into the game.

All of the Sacramento perimeter players struggled from the field, and the team collectively made only seven threes on the night. They were never comfortable offensively after intermission, while the Clippers kept pouring it on.

It was going to take a heroic effort to beat the Clippers, a team with one of the best offenses in the league. But the Kings didn’t even muster an average defensive performance. There will be a lot of blame to spread around after this one. It’s never too soon to look ahead to the Pelicans on Sunday.