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Clippers – Kings Preview: Three the Hard Way?

The Clippers have started the season off with two straight wins, however neither have come very easily or as the result of very good basketball being played. Will this game against the Kings be the first to spark some energetic and motivated play?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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2-0

1-1
November 2nd, 2014, 12:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2013-2014)
21-9 East 13-17
36-16 West 145-37
34-7 Home 17-24
23-18 Road 11-30
25-18 .500+ 11-37
32-7 .500- 17-17
2-0 L10 1-1
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Darren Collison
J.J. Redick SG Ben McLemore
Matt Barnes SF Rudy Gay
Blake Griffin PF Jason Thompson
DeAndre Jordan C DeMarcus Cousins
Advanced Stats (2013-2014)
98.39 (7th of 30) Pace 96.75 (14th of 30)
109.4 (1st of 30) ORtg 102.9 (19th of 30)
102.1 (8th of 30) DRtg 106.3 (23rd of 30)
Injuries/Other
Glen Davis (groin) doubtful

The Back Story (The Clippers lead the season series 4-0):

Date Venue Final

11/01/13 Sacramento Clippers 110, Kings 101 Recap Box
11/23/13 Los Angeles Clippers 103, Kings 102 Recap Box
11/29/13 Sacramento Clippers 104, Kings 98 Recap Box
4/12/14 Sacramento Clippers 117, Kings 101 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have won the first two games of this new season, but have thus far looked pretty lackluster in their play. By no means is 96 minutes of play a big enough sample size to render any sort of verdict about the Clippers' fate for the rest of the season, though it can allow for some tempered, reasonable signs of concern. Throughout the preseason, the Clippers seemed to be lacking energy both offensively and defensively, even having Doc rant about how the team was nowhere near in-game shape. Justifiably, many passed it off as preseason malaise, and expected the Clippers to flip the switch once the real games started. However, having played against two teams injury riddled teams in the Thunder and Lakers, that switch may have flickered on and off occasionally, but has no means been turned on. Against the Thunder the Clippers struggled to make shots, and against the Lakers the Clippers struggled to play passable defense for a majority of the game. The one bright spot of the team has been the play of Blake Griffin, Flying Lion Extraordinaire. He was a bull on the block against the Lakers scoring 39 points and racking up countless fouls against their front line, to which he converted 11 of 12 free throws. If Blake can keep up this MVP level of play, the Clippers will hopefully be playing in June this season. As for Blake's counterpart in Chris Paul, he seems to have been playing with too much passivity and deference. CP3's has always battled when to get his own shot and when to set up teammates, but he has passed up multiple wide open looks these past two games; a more aggressive Paul usually results in good things for the Clippers. The other role players have met with mixed success as Matt Barnes has shown some life, not on the defensive end per se, but J.J. seems to have had his shooting powers deteriorated by his new beard. Jamal has been Jamal, lighting up the Lakers last night and DeAndre has been relatively solid, but will face a real test in DeMarcus Cousins this afternoon. The past history between the Kings and Clippers has been a bit checkered and chippy, with insults being lobbed by Boogie at Chris Paul as well as the forearm that broke J.J.'s wrist last year. Whenever these teams meet, tempers seem to flair, and hopefully that will mean the Clippers will finally turn it on, coming out with energy and focus from beginning to end.

The Antagonist:

This season, the Kings seemed to be slightly optimistic over what they may be able to accomplish, hopefully beginning to compete after years of dwelling in the cellar. Both DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay were on Team USA this summer, and the Kings would like for that experience to serve as a launching pad for both players to explode this season. DeMarcus Cousins may just be the most gifted big man in the league, but has often struggled with his attitude and maturity. By giving him a contract extension this last year, the Kings are committing all in to Boogie in the hopes he can become an All Star Center. Rudy Gay exploded against the Blazers last night putting up 40 points to help the Kings win. Under Mike Malone, the Kings' defense seems to continue to improve, it being one of the main reasons for beating the Portland, and having caused fits against the Warriors on their season opener. Oddly, both Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard have struggled against the Kings, so it will be interesting to watch how Paul deals with the Kings. Sacramento has improved this season and by no means is a roll over type of game; they will compete and play hard and the Clippers must be ready for them or they could be in trouble.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers had the most efficient offense in the league last year, but have so far looked average outside of Blake's dominance. The Clippers will be facing a bottom 10 defensive team last year in the Kings, and hopefully will start to get their offensive game figured out.
  • The Questionable Blogger. This week Akis from Sactown Royalty was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions about the Kings. To see this whole post, check it out here.
  • Big 2. The Clippers have what may be regarded as one of the best, if not the best, duo in the league with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Both are top 5 players according to ESPN Rank this year, and both have been identified as possible MVP candidates for the season. However, Sacramento also boasts an interesting Big 2 of their own in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. The Kings were one of two teams in the league that had two players on Team USA this summer, the other being the Warriors. The Kings are hoping that their Big 2 will continue to benefit from their own post-Team USA boost in play and development.
  • Bad blood. It was often thought that Boogie Cousins had a real beef with Blake Griffin. Many thought it was because of the ferocious way Blake dunks compared to the reputation he has as a flopper around the league. However, on the B.S. Report this summer, Cousins seemed to indicate that he in fact has no problem with Blake or his game. Chris Paul on the other hand is a different story. Cousins does not like Paul and has not been shy about making his feelings known. Boogie has called Paul a "cheater" in the past that he doesn't "respect" and told Bill Simmons he "dislikes CP3 a lot." Boogie may also not like J.J. Redick considering the forearm to the side he gave him last year which ended up breaking Redick's wrist.
  • McLemore vs. Stauskas. If you're a lottery pick for a team, they are often looking to you to fill that position for the foreseeable future. So how does it bode for Ben McLemore that the Kings chose to take another shooting guard in the lottery this year after McLemore's lackluster rookie season.
  • Losing Thomas. The Kings lost Isaiah Thomas to the Suns this summer via free agency, and that may prove to be a big deal. Thomas produced for the Kings last year after fighting and winning the starting job from Vasquez, making him expendable in the Rudy Gay trade. Will the duo of Collison and Sessions be able to provide adequate minutes for the Kings at point? Also, not having Thomas may help the Clippers because he always seemed unstoppable against them when they played.
  • Free throws. In these first two games the Clippers and the Kings have both taken a high volume of shots from the charity stripe with the Kings totaling 70 and the Clippers coming in at 69. It will be interesting to see who can keep out of foul trouble and stopping the other team from converting easy points. If Blake continues his play from last night, there may be no one on Sacramento's roster capable of guarding him one on one.
  • Behind the Arc. In contrast to the similarity from the free throw line, the Clippers have attempted many more three pointers in the past two game than the Kings, almost double. The Kings have shot 7-28 from behind the arc while the Clippers have gone 19-63.
  • Connections. Darren Collison played a major role on the Clippers last season, often filling in when either Chris Paul and J.J. Redick were down with injury. This summer Collison bolted in free agency to Sacramento after being offered the MLE, and it will be interesting to see how he plays against his mentor Chris Paul running his own team. Similarly, Ryan Hollins was a huge component of the Clippers towel wavers coming off the bench last season, giving huge chest bumps and celebrations for Lob City. Hollins signed with the Kings this off season to back up DeMarcus Cousins and we'll see if how much love he still has for his former teammates. Matt Barnes played high school basketball and football at Del Campo High in Sacramento. Reggie Evans played for the Clippers previously and was a major component in their miraculous comeback win against the Grizzlies. Reggie has always been a big crowd favorite at Staples, so look to have the Clipper faithful show him so love if he gets any playing time.
  • Get the Kings perspective at Sactown Royalty.
  • Wikipedia definition:King
    King is one of the most popular characters on the Tekken fighting game series. Throughout the different versions of Tekken, King has appeared in one of two versions, as either King 1 or King 2. King 1 was a street brawling orphan that only cared about violence and fighting. After one particularly vicious fight King 1 collapsed in front of a monastery where the Marquez Priests took him in and cared for him. King 1 became a Catholic Priest and determined to build an orphanage for street children like himself, but lacking the necessary funds, he entered the King of Iron First Tournament. King 1 achieved 3rd place but soon after gave up his Jaguar mask for life falling into the depths of depression and alcoholism. King 1's rival Armor King saved his life by making him join King of Iron First Tournament 2 in which King got his life together through training. King 2 was a street urchin who grew up in King 1's orphanage and spent many years with him. After King 1's death at the hands of Ogre, King 2 donned the famous Jaguar mask in order to raise money for the struggling orphanage. Unfortunately King 2 was horrible, losing every match until Armor King mysteriously appeared and took King 2 under his wing, training him to become a fighter worthy of King 1. King 2 has had a tumultuous life of fighting since, with his master Armor King dying and fighting and later befriending Marduk.