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Clippers Stomp Kings 126-105, Move to 21-21

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The Clippers are back at a .500 record after a dominating win over the hapless Kings.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary:

The Clippers dominated the first quarter, not allowing the Kings to get off many clean looks in the halfcourt, and dominating the paint. They particularly excelled at cutting to the basket: Tyrone Wallace had several gorgeous cuts, and then fed Dekker for another one late in the quarter. Even with Lou not hitting a single field goal, the Clippers led big early.

The second quarter went much the same way, this time replete with an abundance of Kings’ turnovers. It seemed like they could barely even get shots off, so energetic was the Clippers defense. This lead to several break away dunks by Sam Dekker and Wes Johnson. Without DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Wllie Reed stepped up-- Blake as a passer (7 assists), and Reed as a rebounder (8 by halftime). Despite Lou’s continuing struggles from the field (2-7), his ability to get to the free throw line meant he had 13 points at the break. A couple of poor minutes in the middle of the quarter meant the Clippers weren’t up an unreasonable amount, but still had a 64-45 advantage heading into the 3rd quarter.

The third quarter started off sloppily for the Clippers, has they had several turnovers and bad shots. The Kings’ defense noticeably tightened, with Garrett Temple in particular causing problems for the Clips. However, the Clippers got going again halfway through the quarter, spurred by a barrage from Lou. He drained several incredibly difficult shots, and all of a sudden the Clippers were up by over 20 again. The reserves kept the pressure up, and Sindarius Thornwell even saw some action towards the end of the quarter.

The Kings got off to a super quick 8-0 run to start the 4th, and the lead was trimmed to 16. Doc countered by bringing Lou back into the game, and even though Lou himself didn’t score, his mere presence opened up the offense, enabling the Clips to go on a 7-0 spurt of their own. And that was basically the game. The Kings never fully went away, and got the lead down to 15 at various points, but no closer. The last few minutes of the game were full Showtime Clippers, with Jawun Evans dishing a no-look pass to Harrell for a layup, another pass between his legs on the break to Trez for a dunk, and Harrell performing a windmill slam on a solo break. The team was clearly having a great time, and the fans were lapping it up. A fun close to a fantastic performance.

Notes:

· Defense Leads the Way: Doc Rivers talked after the game about how much he has loved this team’s energy, and that their defense needs to lead to offense for them to be effective. That was absolutely the case this afternoon. The Kings scored only 17 points in the 1st quarter, as the Clippers simply swarmed them. Sacramento had only 68 points after three quarters, and simply coulnd’t find open shots until garbage time, when the Clippers relaxed on defense. The Clips gathered 11 steals, leading to fastbreak dunk after fastbreak dunk. Every time the Clippers made a run, it was primarily because of their defense getting stops.

· Balanced Team Effort: While Lou Williams once again led the Clippers in scoring (with 26), he was actually pretty quiet for most of the game outside of a flurry in the mid-3rd quarter. Blake Griffin only had 11 points, opting to be more of a playmaker (finishing with 9 assists), and that meant the rest of the roster scored 89 points. Eight of the ten active players were in double figures scoring, and all ten got on the board. Wes Johnson was hitting 3s, Willie Reed was snagging boards, and the “Goon Squad” provided its usual energy. Every single player who entered the game made a positive impact in some way, and the box score reflects that.

· Great Cutting: The Clippers diced the Kings up in the first half with some brilliant cuts to the basket. Tyrone Wallace was the main perpetrator, but Sam Dekker and Harrell got involved too. The perfection in timing of the cuts is not only a sign of the team’s basketball IQ, but also of the players finally becoming comfortable with one another. Doc Rivers has kept the bench unit as intact as possible for over a month now, shifting guys like Tyrone Wallace and CJ Williams to the starting lineup rather than moving one of the regular rotation players up, and that decision is paying off handsomely now. On-court chemistry is continuing to grow, and that can only be a good sign for the Clippers going forward.

· Injury Updates:

o CJ Williams will be out “a while” per Doc Rivers. He is down in the G-League recovering from his ankle sprain, and I don’t think the Clippers have figured out what to do with him yet. He’s clearly earned a spot on the team, and the team is mentioning him as part of future plans, so a move of some kind will probably be made sooner or later.

o Danilo Gallinari is still out, with no real updates.

o DeAndre Jordan is not expected to miss much time. He actually wanted to play today, but the Clippers wouldn’t let him, regarding safety as more important than one win against a team they should handle (and did) even without him.

o Austin Rivers said that he would be out of his walking boot in a few days, and should be back in around a week and a half. This puts him right on schedule, essentially, and the Clippers will be very glad to see him return.

o Milos Teodosic played today, and played well, but Doc indicated that he will have a minutes restriction (in the 25-30 range at most) for the rest of the season.

· Clippers Reach .500: The Clippers are now 21-21, and are finally back to the break-even point in their record. Doc said after the game that being .500 felt the same to him as being below, but that he thought the team would get some inspiration from it. It’s a monumental achievement for this team to have returned to this level so quickly considering all their injuries, and there’s no sign that they are slowing down any time soon.

· Chris Paul Returns Monday: Next game is one Clippers’ fans circled as soon as the season schedule came out—the first Rockets’ game back in LA. That means the return of one Chris Paul to Staples Center, and the reaction should be interesting. I think he deserves nothing less than a standing ovation, and I hope that’s the move the crowd goes with. Basketball-wise, the Clippers don’t have a great option to defend him, though Jawun Evans might be their best bet due to his pressure and ability to get in players’ heads. While James Harden might be out, CP will assuredly be out for blood, and a virtuoso performance from the Point God is almost a certainty. Should be a fun game.