Kings lose a tough, physical game against the Clippers 93-85
One would think, in a game billed as the “Throwdown Showdown,” a battle between a couple of the game’s best dunkers in Donte Greene and DeMarcus Cousins for the Kings and DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin for the visiting Clippers, that there would be a ton of action at the rim.
Not the case, as Sacramento’s front line did a solid job of protecting the paint against the bigs from Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, it was the guards of the Clippers who did the damage in the key on various drives to the basket by Chris Paul, Randy Foye, Nick Young and Eric Bledsoe. Each of them scored in double figures and constantly pushed the ball into the lane as the Kings lost 93-85 Thursday evening at Power Balance Pavilion.
Coach Keith Smart had Francisco Garcia starting in place of the injured Marcus Thornton. It was the third different starter Smart has used since having to replace Thornton, and Garcia had an immediate effect.
‘Cisco was all over the court early on, garnering two steals and a block in the opening quarter. His defensive presence, along with Cousins and Jason Thompson, filled the middle, keeping Griffin and Jordan from getting to the rim very many times.
Offensively, it was Thompson who led the way, scoring nine and picking up six boards in the opening period. He really performed like he was before he twisted his ankle a couple of weeks ago. Thompson finished with 15 points, 16 boards and a couple of blocks.
Trouble arose when Cousins acquired his fourth turnover late in the first quarter and then his fourth foul very early in the second and had to go to the bench for the rest of the first half. Several of the big man’s turnovers came from trying to put the ball on the floor too close to the basket and Clipper players guarding the paint. Cousins lost the ball several times, which led to him getting frustrated, thus picking up more fouls than usual.
In his absence, Chuck Hayes and Thompson did a great job of limiting the number of easy slams by Clipper big men by closing down the key and keeping them out of the lane.
But it was the “little” guys of Los Angeles that gave the Kings fits. Foye had 20 points, Paul 13 and even Bledsoe had 13 off the pine. It was the pesky Paul’s five steals that kept being the thorn in the collective sides of the guardians of the Kings’ castle.
After finding themselves down by 10 with two minutes left in the third, Jimmer Fredette got the crowd back into the contest by nailing a three. The shot brought the 14,411 strong to their feet and started Sacramento on the comeback trail.
After a couple of hustle plays by Terrance Williams and Fredette, the team was down by three with 10:15 remaining in the game.
Isaiah Thomas (17 points, five boards, only one assist) gave the team its first lead since early in the first quarter.
After a Jimmer three and a Thomas jumper, the team stalled out. With a loud “Beat L.A.” chant going in the background, the last lead the Kings had was with 3:42 left on the clock.
Tyreke Evans had his shot with 45 seconds left that would have kept it a one-point game roll around and out. Thirty seconds later, Evans made it a one-point game again with 18 clicks left on the clock by sinking two free throws.
After Evans just missed a steal attempt on the inbounds pass, it was all trips to the line for the Clippers as they capped the victory from the charity stripe.
Just to show you that these teams are starting to not like each other, Kenyon Martin waited until the clock was about to strike zero before launching a long ball that went in as if to rub the Kings’ faces in the loss.
Evans explained after the game about how tough it was to guard the Clippers guards.
“Chris Paul, Foye and Bledsoe, they are all fast and good guards,” Evans said. “They attacked the basket off the break a lot, and they have some crafty guys that play defense. We just have to be better in the paint when we’re down there.”
It was a very physical game with lots of fouls that weren’t called along with the ones that were. The uneven refereeing was a topic in the locker room after the game.
Griffin didn’t want to get into the topic, saying they would play again soon, but Cousins had no problem addressing the issue of the day.
“Of course, that’s what Blake is going to say,” Cousins quipped. “He’s in L.A. where actors belong. He’s an actor.”
Cousins also said that if the refs were going to let it be physical, then it’s usually that way on both ends.
Friday morning, Cousins was fined $25,000 for his post-game comments about the officiating.
The Kings play the Clippers Saturday in Los Angeles.
GAME NOTES: Even though the Kings had nine blocks and 10 steals, the assist-to-turnover ratio was poor with the team having 19 assists to 18 turnovers . . . Cousins only had eight points and three boards . . . Evans finished with 14 points, three boards, six assists and two blocked shots . . . Hayes had the second-most boards on the Kings with seven . . . Speaking with Thornton after the game, he said he’s unlikely for Saturday’s rematch with the Clippers.
Photo credit: David Alvarez