To illustrate just how bad the bottom of the Western Conference is right now, the Sacramento Kings, at 16-23, are just one full game back of the 8th seed. Even going further, the Phoenix Suns, who are as dismal of a team as you can find right now, are just 5 games back of that final spot. In fact, the Los Angeles Lakers, at 9-32, are still only 9 games back. Yes, it’s that bad. But we’re here to talk about the Kings, not the other teams.
The Kings lost the two prior meetings between these two teams this season, so they’re surely looking for some form of revenge. They do have some quality wins on their resume, including two over the Utah Jazz, two over the Toronto Raptors, one over the Dallas Mavericks, and one over the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re a dangerous team, and they’re led by DeMarcus Cousins and his 26.1 points per game. He’s also putting up 11.0 rebounds per game this season, as well as 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.3 blocks. Cousins has become a proverbial do-it-all superstar this season, and shutting him down is going to be a major priority.
Alongside him you have Rudy Gay (18.0 points and 6.9 rebounds), Darren Collison (13.0 points and 4.6 assists), and Rajon Rondo (11.7 points, 11.6 assists, and 6.4 rebounds). Gay is struggling from beyond the arc, Collison is a pseudo sixth man, and Rondo still can’t hit the broadside of a barn from outside 8 feet (32.1 percent this season). They have a solid bench consisting of guys like Omri Casspi (46.4 percent from three), Marco Belinelli (11.3 points), and Kosta Koufos (7.5 points and 6.0 rebounds). The difference maker might be rookie Willie Cauley-Stein. In the 447 minutes he’s played this season, the team has a +5.3 NetRtg. In the 1440 without him, it’s -5.8. He improves their defense and their offense. The Cousins-WCS pairing has played 147 minutes this season, and they’ve posted a +11.3 NetRtg. That’s something to watch out for in this game.
|2015-16 NBA Regular Season|
|January 16, 2016 — 7:30 PM PT|
|STAPLES Center (Los Angeles, California)|
|Prime Ticket, CSN-CA, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM|
|Rajon Rondo||PG||Chris Paul|
|Ben McLemore||SG||J.J. Redick|
|Rudy Gay||SF||Luc Richard Mbah a Moute|
|DeMarcus Cousins||PF||Paul Pierce|
|Willie Cauley-Stein||C||Cole Aldrich|
|Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)|
|Eric Moreland; Duje Dukan||OUT
The Los Angeles Clippers are riding a 10-game winning streak, which is tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the longest in the NBA at this moment, and they’ve won the last nine without superstar Blake Griffin – the last of which also came without dunking and defensive dynamo DeAndre Jordan. As it stands, the Clippers are just two games back of the three-seed in the Western Conference, and just one game back in the loss column. They’ve put some distance between themselves and the team in fifth, as well.
As the team embarks on yet another game without Griffin, and possibly another without Jordan, they’ll rely heavily on the talents of Chris Paul. During this win streak, Paul is averaging 19.4 points, 11.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.9 steals. He’s been a whirlwind of magnificence. Likewise, J.J. Redick has put up 17.4 points on 53-53-92 shooting during this stretch. If Jordan is out for this game, then Doc Rivers will probably dust off Josh Smith yet again to see if he can supply anything of note. Cole Aldrich got the start in the last game, and he produced awesomely as he totaled 19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal in 24 minutes. They’ll need more of that as it’ll take an entire team effort to walk out with another win to keep the streak alive. All hands on deck for this Clipper ship!