The Clippers got off to a hot start in Sacramento, on the second night of a back-to-back, no less, and held off multiple Kings runs throughout the game to win 133-121. It is LA’s fourth consecutive victory and ensures that the Clippers will have the best record in the Western Conference heading into December.
The starters led the way for LA with 42 points in the first quarter. That included a surprising offensive spark from Avery Bradley. Bradley has struggled shooting to start the season, and had not hit a three since returning from his ankle injury. He finally started hitting from downtown against Sacramento, knocking down 4 of 7 threes, and 6 of 10 shots overall for 16 points and a game-high plus-minus of plus-26.
Bradley continued his prowess on the other end of the floor and was part of a strong defensive effort against both Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic, as the Kings shooting guards finished a combined 12-of-33 from the field and 3-of-13 from 3-point range.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came out firing on offense as well, scoring 11 points in the first quarter for his highest-scoring period of the year thus far. Gilgeous-Alexander was matched up against another young Kentucky point guard, De’Aaron Fox, and more than held his own. Shai equaled Fox’s scoring output and added 2 blocks and 2 steals as he continues to impress on defense, not just for a rookie.
The Clippers starters built a 42-24 lead, but the bench continued its recent stretch of poor play. Doc Rivers attempted to juice the offense by playing Milos Teodosic in place of Sindarius Thornwell, but the defense surrendered points at an alarming rate to the Sacramento second unit. At one point, the game turned into an entertaining, though somewhat concerning, dunk fest between Willie Cauley-Stein and Marvin Bagley.
The Kings managed to cut the lead all the way down to one; Hield was back-cutting at will and the lead was only three at halftime. However, once the starters were back in, Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari regained control for the Clippers. Gallinari finished with 16 points, including 12 in the second half, but it was reigning Western Conference player of the week Harris who really shined again. His efficiency is off the charts, as he poured in 28 points on only 17 shot attempts. No one on Sacramento was remotely capable of keeping Harris from getting to his spots, though Dave Joerger attempted to slow him down by starting Iman Shumpert for some perimeter defense. It didn’t take.
LA built up another 12-point lead in the second half, but the team let the Kings back in, and the lead dwindled to three points at 96-93. Fortunately, the Clippers bench started cooking, going on a 9-0 run that effectively put the game out of reach. Montrezl Harrell continued his Sixth Man of the Year/Most Improved Player campaign with 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including a solid 8-of-12 showing from the foul line. This is Harrell’s seventh 20-point game of the season after having only three previously in his career (h/t Mirjam Swanson).
Ultimately, the Clippers put on quite a show on national television. The defense wasn’t up to their standard, but the Kings’ pace combined with a rest disadvantage made it unlikely that LA would be able to put the clamps on. Instead, the Clippers demonstrated their depth on the offensive end, showing off just how difficult they are to contain. Their offense is like a Whac-A-Mole — stop one player, and two more emerge to carry the scoring load.
Even if certain national analysts continue to doubt LA’s potential, this team continues to rack up victories.