The Los Angeles Clippers eek one out to defeat the Sacramento Kings 106-98 in Sacramento on the strength of twenty-four points by Austin Rivers and twelve assists by Chris Paul. DeMarcus Cousins led all players with twenty-five points and eleven rebounds. Los Angeles improves to 25-14 and Sacramento falls to 15-21.
Slow Start For Clippers
The Clippers got off to an unexpectedly slow start despite an eighty percent intact starting lineup, going down 13-4 after the first five minutes. There were flashes of energy including an 11-2 Los Angeles run to close the gap to 17-24 in favor of Sacramento.
Austin Rivers stayed aggressive while the Clippers played from behind throughout the first half, slashing to the rim, drawing contact, getting fouled, connecting from deep, and logging fourteen points in about eleven minutes approximately halfway through the second quarter. There’s some doubters out there, and nobody is saying Austin is the future of the franchise (it’s Blake ....), but if his development continues at this rate, he may be the two-guard of the future.
After playing from behind for most of the first half, the Clippers went on a 34-12 scoring run to end the first half, with Austin Rivers putting up an exciting eighteen points in eighteen minutes on seven for twelve shooting. Just go with it people, this is happening.
Suddenly It Was Close Again
The Kings played the Clippers very close through the third, tying the game with 1:25 left in the quarter, and ultimately with the Clippers leading 75-73 heading into the fourth quarter. The game got a little bit chippy, with some technical fouls getting handed out, a few humorous exchanges, and some small runs going back and fourth. Ty Lawson showed part of the skill set that made him a borderline all-star a few years ago in Denver before some off-court issues derailed his career’s progress. The Kings, at various stages late in the fourth quarter came within two, three, four, or five points of the Clippers, when a Darren Collison corner three closed the gap to 96-93 with 3:25 left in the game.
Sacramento played the Clippers tough, forcing contested shots from distance late in the shot clock to keep the game within four points with less than a minute left. A Darren Collison drive to the rim sent him to the free throw line where he connected twice to bring the Kings within two points 100-98. A high pick and roll maneuver by Chris Paul sent him heading to the rim in a familiar play, likely eyeing a lob pass to Jordan, but the pass was either swatted loose in traffic, or Paul just lost the handle, leaping out of bounds after the ball to try to salvage the possession, but ultimately resulting in a critical turnover with 40 seconds left in the game.
On the following possession, the Kings attempted as a similar high pick and roll with Gay and Cousins, but an interior pass from Cousins to Gay under the rim was broken up by Chris Paul who came up with the steal, leading to an intentional foul which sent him to the free throw line with 22 seconds left, where he connected for two points. Cousins was probably too unselfish in a situation where he could have likely finished at the rim to tie the game. On the following possession Cousins attempted a highly contested three point shot which failed to connect with the rim, leading to another intentional foul against Chris Paul, finally sealing the victory for the Clippers 106-98.
Clippers Are Holding Their Ground
Three in a row for the Clippers in 2017. You know this is the kind of game they would have lost a few weeks ago. Let’s not get too excited by thinking all is well in Clipperland, but these are the kinds of wins the Clippers need in order to hold their seeding. Close, gritty, almost losing but then pulling it out at the last moment. Yeah, it’s not quite as pretty as when Blake is here doing things Blake does, but it’s keeping us all on our toes for a bit. We’ll take it.
The Kings | They’re Gettin’ It, Maybe?
Not to get carried away, but the Kings (absolutely no shade intended), at times, actually look like a legitimate playoff squad / outside shot at a second round type of team. We all know the record isn’t fabulous, but Dave Joerger at times looks like he is moving things in the right direction. Sacramento seems like a nice collection of pieces on paper; Lawson, Gay, Cousins, Collison. This is a roster that seems like it should make the playoffs. An all-world center with a supporting cast that seems comparable to what you may find in a middle seed team like Utah, Memphis, or Oklahoma City. It’s actually scary to imagine the draft picks they could have grabbed in the last few seasons to support Cousins: CJ McCollum, Zach Lavine, Damian Lilliard, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard. Oh, Kings. Wrap your head around that one, Sacramento literally could have drafted all of those guys (they would have had to choose between Thompson or Leonard though), and have them all on the same team.
Chris Paul Is Legit An All-time Great
Early in the third quarter, Chris Paul recorded his 7,987th assist to become tenth on the all-time assist leader board. Think about that. Seventy years of NBA basketball, only nine guys have more assists than Chris Paul. We’re not saying he’s got a shot at that crazy Stockton record, but he has a legitimate, some might say highly likely, shot at the number two spot.