So, did we see this coming? Did we suspect that the Clippers could beat the defending champs on Wednesday, and then turn around and lose - badly - to the team with the worst record in the NBA? Sure we did. Especially this season, when the team has gone from decent to terrible overnight on more than one occasion.
It started off as simply not being able to shoot. After taking an early lead in the first quarter, the Clippers went scoreless over the last 5 and half minutes, missing nine straight shots. But it was more than that. Their attitude, they way they conducted themselves; they just exhibited a dismal energy all night.
- Leading 18-17, Baron Davis felt he got fouled as he drove to the basket and stuck around to argue the no call as the Kings went the other way. Francisco Garcia dribbled past a barely jogging Marcus Camby for the easy layup.
- Next time down, Zach tried to get the ball to Marcus in the lane. Marcus was cut off, thought he was fouled, and stayed to argue the call as three Kings took off with the ball against one defender back. It resulted in a dunk for Jason Thompson.
- Two trips later, Camby tried to force a pass to Randolph in the lane, it was knocked away and Rashad McCants ran past a barely jogging Camby for another dunk.
- The next trip, after the Clippers missed a couple shots, the Kings got the rebound and ended up with an Andres Nocioni layup. This time the Clippers were back - they just didn't bother to stop Nocioni.
Those four possessions basically defined the game for the Clippers. Because although the Kings are among the worst offensive teams in the league, and by most measures are the worst defensive team in the league, it is not difficult to steal passes that are thrown directly to you, nor is it overly difficult to rebound misses, and it's certainly not difficult to make layups.
I held out a little hope that the Clippers would wake up during the quarter break. I mean, it's hard to imagine that MDsr has much left to say to these guys, or that they would listen even if he did, but I thought maybe he could get their attention. Or short of that, maybe some sort of professional pride would kick in and they'd realize,"Hey, we should at least be trying or something." But whatever hope I harbored was crushed out of me by the play at 5:20 of the second when FIVE Clippers stood and watched as Kevin Martin grabbed an offensive rebound and drive for a layup and then FIVE Clippers stood an watched as Jason Thompson rebounded Martin's miss and dunked the ball. (Stupid Mike Smith picked that particularly point to criticize Martin for 'floating' through the game - the Clippers were down 46-27 to the team with the worst record in basketball, and Smith was on Martin's case. I mean, what would the score have been if Martin had been playing hard, Mike? Any players on the Clippers worthy of a little critique, down 19 and totally disinterested?)
From the 9:23 mark of the second quarter, for the final 33+ minutes of the game, the Kings led by 10 or more. Even as Sacramento was dominating the score, it was obvious that they weren't a particularly good team. The Clippers were just that much worse. Certainly the Kings were energized on defense. And they made shots. They shot 47% for the game compared to the Clippers 38%. They made half of their 22 three point attempts. Like I said in the pre-game, the Kings probably had this game circled. After all, they only had 12 wins coming in, but two of them were against the Clippers. Even bad teams would rather win than lose, and the Kings had to think they could win this one. So they played like they wanted it, and they did a good job. Kevin Martin is very good, Bobby Jackson played like it was the good old days, Francisco Garcia was solid, Spencer Hawes had 15 rebounds. It's just incredibly disappointing that the Clippers made it so very easy for them.
By the end of the third quarter, MDsr had seen enough of his starters. Taking the floor to begin the fourth were DeAndre Jordan, Steve Novak, Al Thornton (in his first game back from a foot injury), Ricky Davis and Mike Taylor. When that group made a little run to cut the lead to 12, it became pretty clear that the starters would not be back. Unfortunately, they couldn't really sustain it, and the game never was in doubt.
Zach Randolph couldn't make a shot and finished 5 for 15. After two straight solid games, Baron Davis was 4 for 13, with more turnovers than assists (5 to 4). Marcus Camby's final numbers (8 points, 13 rebounds) look OK, but he looked lazy and dispassionate out there. Ricky Davis was abysmal, and really just needs to be dropped from the rotation. He went 0 for 4 in about 5 minutes of the second quarter, and not a single shot was close.
The only redeeming feature was that Mike Taylor and DeAndre Jordan both looked pretty good in the fourth quarter. Taylor in particular was good to see. He hasn't gotten much chance to play since returning from his broken thumb. He had won the back up point guard job before he was hurt, but has fallen off the depth chart in the meantime. He is excellent when he is pushing the ball. His thumb injury certainly didn't slow him down any. He still gets out of control - his three turnovers in 16 minutes were a problem. But he has a special skill set that can allow him to be a change of pace point guard - a guy who can come in for short stretches and really push the tempo.
But other than that, a brutal and disappointing loss. I think Don McLean said it pretty well in the post game (and I'm paraphrasing): don't tell us that you'll be good when you're healthy, that you the reason your record is bad because of the injuries, and then come out an play like this.