Well, even if the Kings are destined to be leaving Sacramento soon, there's no reason that their final days in town can't be pleasant, and the Clippers did their part for our neighbors to the north tonight, giving Sacramento a win in a game that several fan organizations were using as a platform to demonstrate their support for keeping the Kings in town. Really, the Clippers were taking the long view on this one - they don't much want a third team in the LA area, and a Kings win tonight increases their chances of staying in the Capital, however slightly.
The Clippers broke even in the first quarter and won the second and third quarters to build a five point lead heading into the fourth quarter. They had 83 points after three quarters. They then proceeded to get out scored 27 to 16 in the fourth. For some reason Mo Williams, playing in his first game with the Clippers, and Randy Foye took 13 of the team's 20 shots in the fourth quarter, making only 4 of them. Blake Griffin in the meantime got only 3 shots in the final period, making 2 of them. Yes, the Kings loaded up their defense to stop Griffin down the stretch, but still there were way too many possessions when Griffin didn't even touch the ball, but only set screens for Foye and Williams to shoot behind.
The Clippers execution in the fourth quarter, against a usually porous Kings defense, was in a word, terrible.
And how about Marcus Thornton? Thornton, in his third game as a King, scored 29 points in just 27 minutes. During the decisive fourth quarter, he almost singlehandedly secured the lead for Sacramento. In the first four minutes of the fourth, Thornton scored 9 of Sacramento's 10 points and turned their five point deficit into a one point lead. For that portion of the fourth, Thornton looked unstoppable. And while he may not literally be unstoppable, he is an exceedingly talented scorer on an NBA court, and on wonders what he could possibly have done NOT to play for Monty Willams in New Orleans. Because this guy is the real deal. He can shoot the ball, but I would never characterize him as a 'shooter' - he's a scorer. He has every move, he can spot up, he can pull up off the dribble, he can even scorer in the post. And this isn't exactly news. Last year with the Hornets he averaged well over 20 points per game over the final 36 games. More than most, I think I realize that there other aspects to the game, not just scoring, but at the end of the day the goal is still to score more points than your opponent, and as such there is a premium on scoring in the league. Yet Thornton could not get out of the doghouse in Charlotte.
Mo Williams and Jamario Moon each made their Clippers debut tonight, with Williams getting the start despite the fact that he has yet to go through a full practice. He scored well enough, but I have a bad feeling that we're going to find out exactly how much this team is going to miss Baron Davis. Williams did deliver two nice passes to Griffin and one to DeAndre Jordan, but there were also many lost opportunities, when Griffin was open for a split second but didn't get th pass.
Williams also left the game briefly in the third quarter with a foot or ankle injury (an ankle that he injured during the Cavs victory over the Clipper in February). When he returned to the game, he looked a step slow, and it's worth noting that most of Thornton's damage in the fourth quarter came while Williams was trying to guard him. It's strange that Coach Vinny Del Negro left him in the game, given that he appeared to be a liability.
Even with an ongoing collapse in the fourth quarter, the Clippers were still within one point, despite being horrible. But four consecutive DeAndre Jordan misses from the free throw line kept the Clippers at bay. The fourth quarter free throw percentage caught up with the law of averages, as the Clippers had been terrific from the line until well into the second half. But down the stretch, the Clippers shot a percentage from the line appropriate to their '30th' ranking in the NBA in free throw shooting, and those misses kept the Clippers from mounting much of a comeback.
The Clippers now have a brief two game homestand. The signals are mixed on Eric Gordon; maybe he'll be back very soon, and maybe he won't. What is clear is that the team still needs Gordon as much as ever, and that the new guys need at least a few more games before feeling comfortable. This team still has a chance to be pretty good, but right now they're not.