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Clippers-Kings preview: Enemy At The Gates

After rattling off three straight wins against Texas based teams, the Los Angeles Clippers will meet up with an in-state foe on Saturday night. The Sacramento Kings and their malevolent superstar center, DeMarcus Cousins, will look to sink the ship.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season

February 21st, 2015, 7:00 PM
STAPLES Center (Los Angeles, California)
Prime Ticket, Comcast-Sacramento, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2014-2015)
13-11 East 6-13
23-8 West 13-21
7-2 Division 4-7
22-7 Home 12-17
14-12 Road 7-17
15-15 .500+ 9-24
21-4 .500- 10-10
1-0 OT 3-2
5-5 L10 3-7
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Ray McCallum
J.J. Redick SG Ben McLemore
Matt Barnes SF Rudy Gay
Spencer Hawes PF Carl Landry
DeAndre Jordan C DeMarcus Cousins
Advanced Stats
96.50 (13th of 30) Pace 97.20 (9th of 30)
110.6 (1st of 30) ORtg 101.6 (19th of 30)
104.5 (19th of 30) DRtg 106.0 (26th of 30)
Blake Griffin (Out) Elbow
Darren Collison (Out) Hip
Austin Rivers (Questionable) Ankle
Reggie Evans (Questionable) Knee

Eric Moreland (Out) Shoulder

Clippers and Kings tied in 2014-2015 season series; 1-1
Clips Nation Recap
ESPN Box Score
Los Angeles
Kings 98, Clippers 92
Box Score
Clippers 117, Kings 108
Box Score

The Assassins
We’re 55 games into the season and the Clippers currently reside in the 5th seed with a 36-19 record and just one game back in the loss column of the 3-seed Portland Trail Blazers and the 4-seed Houston Rockets. The issue at hand, however, is that the team is currently without Blake Griffin and has a super tough schedule coming up after this contest. But, have no fear, they’ve won the last three games without him – all against teams from Texas – and seem to be riding the wave of great play from DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, and a few others. Up next, the Sacramento Kings and their head coaching carousel. The Clippers will likely also be without Austin Rivers for this game due to an ankle injury and that could come into play because of the perimeter defense that could be missing.

The Monarchy
In one of the oddest displays of change in quite some time, the Kings are onto their third coach in 53 games. This time, it’s George Karl at the helm. Last night in Sacramento, they ended up dispatching of the Boston Celtics despite turning the ball over 24 times and having it result in 38 points. The Kings got down 16-2 early but rallied to take the lead back by the end of the first quarter before ultimately holding off the Celtics at the finish line. They’re led by all-star center DeMarcus Cousins, wing Rudy Gay, and a hodgepodge of talent around them due to Darren Collison’s injury. It’s only one game, but Karl got them through to them despite an early deficit. Says a lot.

For More: Visit Sactown Royalty

Comparison of Stuff Charles Barkley Hates
The Clippers, based on efficiency, are still the top team in basketball. So that’s pretty cool. What’s not cool, however, is that their defense is not good this year. The only team with a winning record – i.e. over .500 – who has a worse Defensive Rating than the Clippers this year are the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s it. For all of the faults that the Clippers have defensively, Sacramento is still worse by about a point-and-a-half per 100 possessions while seeing their offense massively worse. When it comes to pace, the Clippers are roughly a middle-of-the-road team while the Kings sit just inside the top ten. However, their difference in pace is roughly one possession per game. When it comes to Defensive Rebound Rate, the Clippers rank tied with Utah for 7th while Sacramento is 6th. However, when you account for offensive rebounds and combine into Total Rebound Rate, the Sacramento Kings are the top team in the NBA there while the Clippers rank tied with Boston for 19th. Competing as a team on the boards will be important.

The Clippers, after this game, have upcoming contests against the Memphis Grizzlies (x2), Houston Rockets (x2), Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves (x2), Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks, and Charlotte Hornets before meeting up with the Kings again. That doesn’t even take into account the two games after the Kings game in March that’ll be against the Washington Wizards and the New Orleans Pelicans. Let’s just hope Blake Griffin can get back soon and be healthy. This team will need him. As far as the Kings are concerned, their next three games after the visit Los Angeles are all home games against the likes of Memphis, San Antonio, and Portland. After that, though, they head out onto the road for an 8-game road trip that sees them visit the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Washington Wizards. Oh, and that’ll be all in a 12-day stretch with three sets of back-to-backs. This has to stop.

X-Factor: Derrick Williams
Reputed Clippers killer Derrick Williams is the easy choice for X-Factor here. Omri Casspi could have been another choice but Williams makes sense because of his random past games against the Clippers that have led to heartbreak. Yes, he only averages 8.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in just show of 20 minutes per game over his career against the Clippers but he just seems to pull games out of his rear end when the team needs them. There’s the 15 point and 9 rebound performance in a win back on March 5th, 2012 where he managed to make three threes. That actually came just about five days after he dropped 27 points and 5 rebounds while going 9-for-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from three. That was the game, as you might recall, that Michael Beasley channeled his one good game to also not miss from three and go off for 27 points. Both of those games resulted in Minnesota wins. In their last meeting, Williams had 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists on 5-for-10 from the field. It’d be nice to keep him under wraps if possible.

DeAndre's Dominance
In the four games without Blake Griffin, the Clippers dynamic center has managed to average 20.0 points, 18.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.8 blocks, and 1.0 assists on 67.6 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from the free throw line. In just the last three games alone, DeAndre Jordan is averaging 24.0 points, 21.7 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 2.0 blocks, and 0.7 assists on 71.0 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from the line. Those last three games also coincide with the return of J.J. Redick. Either way, the Clippers would be pretty lost without him and his contributions. Not only did he have back-to-back games of 20 points and 20 rebounds, but he also became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain roughly 50 years ago to have back-to-back games with at least 25 free throw attempts in each one. In February alone, which has spanned seven games, he’s essentially averaging 17-17 on 70 percent. It’s unheard of.

Paul's Point Prowess
Speaking of players picking up the slack without Griffin to help, Chris Paul has filled the role of aggressive scorer at times. He’s averaging 19.3 points, 13.5 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.0 steals on 47-25-91 shooting. The most amazing part, at least, is that he’s still racking up 13.5 assists per game despite the absence of Blake Griffin. Now, this is partially due to him handling the ball a lot more than he would if Griffin were still playing, but it just goes to show you the level of shot creation that Paul can create for others when on the court and running the pick-and-roll. Of course, guys have to make shots to get assists. That’s how that whole thing works. Despite that, though, it is interesting to see Paul’s play over the last four contests and how the team has responded to a new "dynamic duo" that’s running the pick-and-roll.

Cousins' Considerable Craft
Like him, love him, hate him, or just indifferent about him, you cannot deny the sheer impact that DeMarcus Cousins can have on games. Centers don’t average 23.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.4 steals by sheer happenstance. Cousins demands double-teams in the post and gets the defense keying in on him on nearly every possession because of his sheer importance to Sacramento’s offensive system. And it even goes beyond the offensive end of the floor. As of the All-Star Break, the Kings were giving up 101.4 points per 100 possessions with him on the court but saw that number balloon to 111.6 without him. The problems Cousins has, though, are that he turns the ball over a ton – 9 turnovers last night – and fouls a lot. But they go hand-in-hand because he gets a lot of offensive fouls that also count as turnovers. Defenders can take advantage of Cousins’ reputation and overeagerness at times. 19 percent of the turnovers Cousins has had this year have been on offensive fouls. That’s a large amount. He’ll get his, but you can frustrate him. I feel like this is a game where Glen Davis’ post defense (and over-embellishment) could come into play.

Jamal Ball, Y'all
Facts are facts and numbers are numbers. Since December 1st, Jamal Crawford has shot just 36.9 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from three. That’s over a 39 game stretch. Yet, he’s rattled off five straight 20-point games and bailed the Clippers out a ton in their last game against San Antonio, including hitting a huge three to put the Clippers up four late. He had 26 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in that game while going 8-for-15 from the field and 5-for-7 from three. He still took a couple "Jamal shots" but he seemed to settle into a distributing role for some of the game and that set up his offense for later on when Chris Paul was able to find him in the corner or on the wing. Crawford can be frustrating. He can be way too much at times, as well. There are times he takes some horrific shots and times when he takes smart ones. You’d like to see the smart ones more but Jamal is Jamal and what Jamal can do is just get you points. And the Clippers need points right now however they can get it.

Bereft Griffin, But Winning
Despite being without Blake Griffin for the last four games, the Clippers have managed to go 3-1 and actually gain ground on some of the other teams in the Western Conference playoff race. Last night was a great night for the Clippers in that regard thanks to Houston, Portland, and San Antonio all losing. But the Clippers have a loss of their own and not having Griffin there is a big deal. Spencer Hawes is trying. No one can deny that. The problem is that since his great first half in Oklahoma City, Hawes has only managed to record 23 points and 8 rebounds in his last 66 minutes. To put it bluntly, that’s not good. They’ll need more out of Hawes at this juncture. The team is not better without Blake Griffin. They’re just finding ways to win. And, for right now, that’s enough. Every win this team gets without Griffin is a minor miracle considering the level of competition. Any talk about if the Clippers are better without Griffin is the same stuff that happened last year when the Clippers played well without Paul. The team just survives. It doesn’t mean they can do it night-in and night-out. It just means they can do it for right now.

Darren Collison is a former member of the Los Angeles Clippers and was also a teammate of Chris Paul’s way back in New Orleans. Reggie Evans, likewise, is also a former member of the Los Angeles Clippers. As are Andre Miller and Ryan Hollins but we don’t talk about them. Collison, Hollins, and Matt Barnes all attended UCLA. First round pick Nik Stauskas and our own Jamal Crawford both attended the University of Michigan. Ray McCallum went to college at Detroit Mercy which is where former Clipper great Willie Green went. Spencer Hawes was drafted by the Sacramento Kings and spent three years there. During his time, he shared a locker room with both Omri Casspi and Jason Thompson. Paul and Carl Landry were teammates in New Orleans for about half a year. George Karl coached former Clippers great World B. Free way back in Cleveland during the 84-85 and 85-86 seasons. Rudy Gay and Dahntay Jones were teammates for one year in Memphis. And Jones actually spent one year in Sacramento.

Wikipedia Entry
Dead Kings is a DLC (Downloadable Content) pack for the recent installment of the Assassin’s Creed video game series. It was largely boring and pointless and I recommend that if you have time to waste, spend it on something else. The game is okay but the DLC is sort of lame. "King of Kings" is a song performed by the band Motörhead and it is the theme song for which wrestler Triple H uses when he makes his entrances and such. The Los Angeles Kings are a co-tenant in the STAPLES Center with the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers. The Kings just won the Stanley Cup last year and became the first team ever to win three straight series that went seven games and, due to that, became the first team ever to win three straight Game 7’s on the road.

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