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Clippers at Kings Preview

The Clippers are in a bit of a rough patch right now and need a nice win to straighten things out. It is very hard to predict the outcome tonight, as the Kings are one of the most mercurial teams in the league.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
2015-16 NBA Regular Season

Los Angeles Clippers (37-20)

Sacramento Kings (24-32)
February 26, 2016 — 7:00 PM PT
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, California
Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
37-20 Record 24-32
18-6 East 12-10
19-14 West 12-22
6-5 Division 5-7
19-10 Home 14-14
18-10 Road 10-18
13-15 .500+ 11-24
24-5 .500– 13-8
4-1 OT 0-3
6-4 L10 4-6
Projected Starters
Chris Paul
PG Rajon Rondo
JJ Redick SG Ben McLemore
Luc Mbah a Moute SF Rudy Gay
Jeff Green PF Quincy Acy
DeAndre Jordan C DeMarcus Cousins
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
98.4(13th) Pace 102.5 (1st)
106.1 (6th) OffRtg 103.0 (15th)
100.3 (6th) DefRtg 106.0 (24th)
5.8 (5th) NetRtg -2.9 (22nd)
Injury Report

Austin Rivers (Hand) Out

Blake Griffin (Hand) Out

Paul Pierce (Personal) Out

Eric Moreland (foot) Out

Rajon Rondo (thumb) Questionable

Clippers lead season series 2-1

Clippers win @ Kings, 111-104, Oct 28 Box Score
Clippers win @ Staples, 114-109 Box Score
Kings win @ Staples, 110-103, Jan 16
Box Score

The Big Picture: After a super hot stretch starting right after Blake Griffin got injured and carrying all the way through the All Star break, the Clippers are starting to show some wear and tear. They have lost three of their last five games, and while two were tough defeats, there was no excuse for the loss at home on Wednesday against a lottery bound Nuggets squad. The healthy "Big 3" of DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul, and JJ Redick have mostly been very good, but the rest of the team has lagged behind. The injury to Austin Rivers took out defense and driving ability on the perimeter, and new acquisition Jeff Green has been bad in the only two games the Clippers have needed him to be good in. Things don't get easier tonight, as the Kings aren't terrible and have a .500 record at home.

The Opposition: The Sacramento Kings have just kept right on the same weird path they have been following for the better part of a decade now. Namely, a losing one with a lot of strangeness thrown in. Every time it looks like they might be making progress or going on a run something happens. DeMarcus Cousins is perhaps the most dominant offensive big man since Shaq, KG, and Duncan were still in their primes a decade ago, but his effort and defense comes and goes and he pouts as much as ever. His supporting cast is rather lacking. Rudy Gay is a talented offensive player but he still takes a lot of bad shots and doesn't really stretch the floor. Rajon Rondo has had a "bounce back" year on the offensive end, yet has somehow turned from a fearsome defender into one of the biggest sieves in the game. At best he reaches and gambles for steals. At worst he completely ignores scheme or does nothing at all. Omri Casspi has been terrific as a shooter while Willie Cauley-Stein has been as good as promised on the defensive end. On the whole, though, they are utterly unpredictable, capable of taking down a top tier team or losing to the 76ers in a two day span.

Matchup to Watch: DeMarcus Cousins vs DeAndre Jordan. DJ has been terrific this year, especially with Blake out, but will have his hands full with Cousins. Boogie has increased his scoring to over 27 points per game this season and gets to the line over 10 times a game. He is a monster on the boards when he wants to be, and some of his statlines have been insane (he threw up a 37 and 20 just a week ago). DJ, on the other hand, is a more consistent overall player. While his impact can be limited on some nights due to hacking, he generally brings his above average paint protection and excellent rebounding each game. He will need to be an A+ tonight, because nobody else on the Clippers has a chance of dealing with DC (though Cole Aldrich is a big man, he lacks the quickness to stop Cousins' face up game).

Other Keys to the Game: Attack, attack, and attack some more. The Kings defense is porous, liable to give up open shots from almost everywhere on the floor. The Clippers can't simple settle, but must move the ball for better looks- they will get such looks eventually. Paul should dominate Rondo or any other Kings' point guard. JJ Redick is one of the best off ball offensive players in the game and Ben McLemore is one of the worst at defending those kinds of players. On defense, the only two real players to worry about are Cousins and Gay, but Casspi can get scorching hot from 3. He will need looking after.

Jeff Green's First Start?: Paul Pierce is out tonight with a personal issue (hope everything is ok Paul!), which could open the door for Jeff to make his first start as a Clipper. Wes Johnson is another possibility, but Doc may well want to see how Jeff fits in with the Clippers starters sans Blake. Watch for lineup announcements before the game starts.

Clippers' Shooting Woes: As Lucas detailed here, the Clippers only have two above average shooters this season. The reason why their overall numbers look good is because JJ takes a lot of 3 pointers, and he is having one of the best shooting seasons in NBA history. Wes Johnson and Jeff Green are below average, and Paul Pierce and Austin Rivers have been nothing short of actual bricklayers. This hasn't proven to be a huge issue so far, but as the playoffs approach and Blake's return slowly draws nearer, it would be nice to add some shooting. Which leads into...

Waiver Wire Market Grows: While Joe Johnson is apparently signing with the Miami Heat, Marcus Thornton was just bought out by the Houston Rockets, and Kevin Martin is in advance negotiations for a buy-out with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Neither can play any semblance of defense, though both would immediately become useful as bench shooters who could be used in various lineups with a more defensive balance (bench unit with Austin or Luc on either side). I would like CJ Wilcox to get potential minutes as that kind of shooter, but he has almost no NBA experience while Martin and Thornton are long-time veterans. Hopefully Doc can snag one of them (or any other similar player who might become available).

The Battle for the 8th Seed: The Kings are 10th in the West currently, and are four games back of the final playoff spot held by Houston. They are also three and a half games back of the Jazz, who are starting to get healthy and have a lot more overall talent. It will be an uphill battle to make the playoffs, especially since the Pelicans and Nuggets are also lurking within a couple games of the Kings.

Upcoming Schedule: The Clips actually have the 6th toughest remaining schedule. After the Kings they have a cupcake game at home against the New Jersey Nets, who just bought out their 3rd best player in Johnson. Following that, however, the Thunder and Hawks come into town, both much more challenging tests, and then Mavericks and Thunder on the road. If Griffin and Austin miss all four of those games (Austin could be back in a few games), going 3-1 in that stretch would be a terrific outcome.