Clippers Vs. Kings - Game Preview - No Time to Dwell, There's Another Game

March 1, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) holds onto a rebound next to Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) in the fourth quarter at the Power Balance Pavilion. The Clippers defeated the Kings, 108-100. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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32-22
19-35
Power Balance Pavilion
April 5th, 2012, 7:00 PM
FS West, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Isaiah Thomas
Randy Foye
SG Tyreke Evans
Caron Butler SF Donte Greene
Blake Griffin PF Jason Thompson
DeAndre Jordan C DeMarcus Cousins

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

I'm not gonna lie. I'm having trouble focusing on writing this preview, because I'm still thinking about that tough loss to the Lakers last night. Well guess what? That's exactly what the Clippers CAN'T do. A loss is a loss -- until you let it affect your next game and it becomes two losses. Going into the games versus the Mavs and the Lakers, we said that a split would be OK -- and that's what happened, and it's OK. The Clippers now need to focus on maintaining the fourth spot in the West, because the difference between 3 and 4 is negligible, but the difference between 4 and 5 is major. Of the Clippers' 12 remaining games, 8 of them are on the road, and all of the other venues will be tougher than Sacramento. So this is one the Clippers really need to win -- to move past last night's loss, and frankly to stay on track for a top 4 finish. Because if they can't beat the Kings on the road, then those 7 road games in the last 10 games get really scary.

The Antagonist:

The Kings are making strides. They've got a winning record at home -- which, given that the Clippers have a losing record on the road, might suggest that the Kings should be favored in this game. They're 5-6 in their last 11, but more importantly, they've been close in ten of those games. They have an overtime loss at Houston, a one point loss to Utah, and a five point loss to San Antonio among their recent games, so really, they've been playing consistently competitive basketball since mid-March. A big reason for their recent success is the strong play of second year center DeMarcus Cousins. In his last 14 games, Cousins is averaging over 23 points and almost 11 rebounds per game, while shooting a much improved 48% from the field (he's 45% on the season). Unfortunately for the Kings, Tyreke Evans still has not returned to his Rookie of the Year form, but they appear to have a building block player in Cousins.

The Subplots

  • Tonight's Special Guest Recapper: Citizen John Raffo. For reals this time.
  • No Questionable Blogger this time. Sorry, just didn't get to it. Hopefully Tom Ziller and I can get something done before the rematch in LA on Saturday.
  • Key Kings Metrics:
    Pace: 94.6 (1st of 30)
    Off Rtg: 103.8 (17th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 109.5 (28th of 30)
    Since these teams last met five weeks ago, the Kings have been on an offensive tear. Their offensive efficiency rating has gone from 100.5 to 103.8 in the course of 20 games. Wow. Their defense is still terrible, but they've been way above average on offense since the beginning of March.
  • Key Clippers Metrics:
    Pace: 89.0 (28th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 108.4 (3rd of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.9 (21st of 30)
  • DVR alert. Tonight's game is on Fox Sports West, not Prime Ticket. In fact, of the next nine games, three are on FS West, one is on TNT and one is on channel 13, so make sure you know where your Clippers are for the rest of the season.
  • Arena in doubt again. When the Clippers and Kings played in Sacramento on March 1, it was just days after a handshake agreement had been reached on a new arena deal that would keep the Kings in Sacramento for the long term. Turns out that there's a difference between handshakes and contracts, and the Maloof brothers, owners of the Kings, now say there were many elements of the term sheet discussed back in late February that they never agreed to. When some checks needed to be signed to pay for the pre-development costs on the new arena, the Maloofs refused to pay the portion that pretty much everyone else involved thought they'd already agreed to pay. The bottom line is that the Kings' future in Sacramento is once again in doubt -- so you Orange County NBA fans can start dreaming of the Anaheim Royals again.
  • First meeting. In the first meeting between these teams, five weeks ago in Sacramento, the Clippers took a while to get going. The game was tied at half time, and tied again midway through the third quarter -- but the Clippers went on a 36-17 run over the next 15 minutes or so to put the game away. An 11-0 Kings run in garbage time made the final score more respectable.
  • Home and home. The Clippers and Kings are playing the always fun home and home series, with a rematch on tap for Saturday night in L.A. With a game against the Grizzlies in Memphis next in line, these are two games the Clippers really need to win to recapture some momentum when they head into that game with what is likely to be their toughest competition for the four spot down the stretch.
  • Avoiding the letdown. The Clippers are bound to be a little letdown tonight after last night's showdown with the Lakers and the ultimate disappointment. They're also of course playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road, never an easy task, while the Kings were off yesterday. How the Clippers come out in the first quarter will be key to this game. L.A. has been getting off to great starts in the last two weeks. Hopefully they can do so again tonight.
  • Thornton doubtful. Kings leading scorer Marcus Thornton has a bruised calf muscle that kept him out of the King last game, and he's considered doubtful tonight. Thornton would be a big loss for the not particularly deep Kings -- they are 1-7 without Thornton this season.
  • Chuck Hayes. No one in the NBA defends Blake Griffin more effectively than Chuck Hayes. No one. But apparently no one informed Kings coach Keith Smart of that fact. In the first meeting, Hayes played 16 minutes off the bench -- the vast majority of those minutes while Griffin was resting. For all intents and purposes, Hayes didn't defend Griffin in the first meeting. Let's hope no one has told Smart in the interim.
  • Tyreke Evans, a player without a position. Evans had a great rookie campaign resulting in the Rookie of the Year award (that would have been Blake Griffin's rookie season but he got hurt, and Ricky Rubio stayed in Spain that year, so two of the top five picks in the draft were out of the running, but still). But even as a rookie, it was unclear what position he played. He needs the ball in his hands for his relentless forays to the rim, but his 1.9 assist-to-turnover ration was decidedly un-point-guard-like. That year he was paired in the backcourt with Beno Udrih, and the two of them shared the ball handling duties. In his second season he was never right physically, battling plantar fasciitas all season, and his numbers all took a big decline. This season with Marcus Thornton at the two instead of Udrih, Evans began the year playing the point, but the Kings offense sputtered without a passable distributor. Rookie Isaiah Thomas was inserted into the starting lineup to get the ball moving, and Evans was moved to the three. Tonight he may be playing the two, if Thornton is unable to go. Evans is a unique talent -- but it's been tough for him to find his niche this season.
  • Western Conference. Thursday's are usually a light schedule in the NBA, and there are literally no other games involving Western Conference teams on the slate tonight. So it's up to the Clippers to gain or lose a half game on all of their rivals.
  • 60th pick. Isaiah Thomas was the 60th pick in June's draft, the last pick in the second round. I often wonder if that guy, that 60th pick, even wants to be drafted at that point. Second round picks do not receive guaranteed contracts. By being picked, his rights went to the Kings to negotiate a contract and try to make the team -- if his name had not been called, he could have tried to catch on with any of the 30 teams in the league. The fact that the Kings picked him meant that they liked him more than the other players available -- but that's all it meant. Of course, for Thomas it was better than it is for most 60th picks. The last pick belongs to the team with the best record, so the odds of a second round pick making that team are not great. The Bulls second rounder happened to end up with Sacramento this year, and Sacramento happened to be a very good situation for Thomas, so it all worked out.
  • Cousins versus the Clippers. During his rookie season, DeMarcus Cousins was pretty dismal against the Clippers. He averaged 7.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, shot 30% from the field and 44% from the line. Partly because I've seen him look so bad against the Clippers, I'm having trouble relating to reports of a new and improved Cousins. He scored 23 against L.A. in the first meeting this year. He's coming off a career high 41 against the Suns on Tuesday.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    kings

    n. A drinking game using all 52 cards in a deck, drawn one at a time. Rules vary from place to place, with each card meaning a different activity must be done, but the game has one common feature all over the world: the kings cup. This cup is placed in the middle of the table, with the cards around it. Whenever a king is drawn, the person who draws it must pour some of his/her drink in the kings cup. The unlucky bastard who draws the fourth and final king in the deck must chug whatever is in this cup. Can often be some nasty, ungodly concoction if people are playing with different drinks.

    I almost shit myself when I saw the dreaded fourth king and realized I'd have to drink that disgusting mix of Irish Stout, Smirnoff Ice, and white russian.
  • Get the Kings perspective at Sactown Royalty.
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