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Game Preview: Clippers Face Kings in Sacramento

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The LA Clippers look to go 4-0 in the season series against the Sacramento Kings, re-claiming 7th place in the West in the process.

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

Game Information

Where: Golden 1 Center - Sacramento, CA

When: 7:00 p.m. PST

How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket

How to Listen: AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups

LA Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac

Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes, Willie Cauley-Stein

Injuries

Clippers: Wilson Chandler (Quad) - Out, Luc Mbah a Moute (Knee) - Out

Kings: Marvin Bagley III (Knee) - Out

The Big Picture

The LA Clippers, currently 8th place in the Western Conference with a 34-29 record (the same record as the 7th place San Antonio Spurs, differentiated only by conference matchup record), are looking to stay in the postseason hunt. It remains tight in the West, and for the Clippers, the separation from the 5th seed (3.5 games) and from 10th place (3 games) means that every matchup going forward is crucial, particularly against conference opponents. Fortunately, while the Clippers are 5-5 in their last 10 games, of their 15 games in March, only 6 will be on the road (5 if you don’t really count the Los Angeles Lakers, which you shouldn’t). And only 6 of those 15 matchups are against Western Conference teams.

The Clippers’ trade deadline acquisitions and departures have had a noticeable impact on the flow of the game, and more time will certainly be needed to allow this new group to continue to learn how to mesh. Although he got off to a hot start, Landry Shamet has had some offensive woes as of late, shooting just 6-21 from beyond the arc over his last 4 games. Garrett Temple, who is probably a better fit than Shamet with the starting unit due to his size and defensive capabilities, has come off the bench with mixed results. Ivica Zubac, who has remained in the starting lineup since his first game with the Clippers, has fit in the most comfortably of the new faces, averaging 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds in just 19.5 minutes per game. JaMychal Green, who got off to a slow start with the second unit, has come to life over his last few games at both ends of the floor (while shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc on 3.4 attempts per game).

And as they await the return of Wilson Chandler and Luc Mbah a Moute, the Clippers will continue to push ahead by committee, albeit behind some stellar play from their second unit led by Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Doc Rivers is likely to continue utilizing 3-guard lineups because of their ability to spread the floor and affect the pace of the game, though Danilo Gallinari remains the offensive centerpiece for the starting group. It must also be noted that in the 7 games this new-look group has played together, Patrick Beverley, the heart and soul of this roster, has led the team in rebounds (7.3 rebounds) and minutes (31.0) per game.

The Clippers, 4-3 as a re-formed group, will look to continue their playoff push over their remaining 19 games. Tonight could be a great step in that direction, as they hope to go 4-0 on the season against a formidable division opponent.

The Antagonist

The Sacramento Kings, 31-30 and currently 9th place in the Western Conference, are eager to make the playoffs. It has been 12 years since the Kings last make the playoffs back in 2006, the longest active postseason drought in the NBA. Their young core - featuring De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III (out tonight due to injury), Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Willie Cauley-Stein - hasn’t been together long enough to have endured much of the team’s postseason woes, but will be absolutely essential in getting them there.

The Kings are dangerous on multiple fronts - particularly their blistering pace, their fantastic coaching, and their ability to quickly close sizable deficits (something the Clippers are also familiar with). And in the month of February, they added Harrison Barnes, a welcome addition for a very young roster in need of rotation players with meaningful postseason experience.

The Kings are just 5-5 in their last 10 games, and currently riding a 2-game skid, but would hate to lose at home against a division rival (separated by just 2 games) for the 4th time this season. And in all of the NBA, the Kings currently rank 8th in points (114.0), 5th in field goals made (43.1), 2nd in field goal attempts (93.1), 9th in assists (25.6), and 9th in steals (8.5) per game. A win tonight is certainly within grasp against a Clippers team who will be playing their 4th game in 6 nights.

Notes

  • Expect free throw shooting to be a factor in tonight’s matchup. The Clippers currently rank 1st in the NBA in both free throws attempted (28.7) and free throws made (22.8) per game. Conversely, the Kings rank just 16th in attempts (22.9), 24th in makes (16.4), and 28th in free throw percentage (71.6%). For a Kings team which ranks 1st in Pace, this is not good news. The Clippers are 9th in Pace in the NBA and will likely surpass their season free throw shooting averages because of the Kings’ tendency towards maximizing total possessions in the game. The Clippers will need to force as many live ball turnovers as possible and play downhill all night.
  • Rebounding continues to be a problem for the Clippers, who will face a Kings team which ranks 10th in the league in offensive rebounding (11.0 per game). The Clippers will not have the collective size or athleticism advantage in this matchup, so they must limit second-second-chance opportunities for the Kings.
  • Montrezl Harrell has been a force to be reckoned with since the All-Star break, averaging 21.5 points (team-leading), 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 blocks in just 24.6 minutes per game on 72.9% shooting from the field during that time. Earlier this week, at home against the Dallas Mavericks, he also posted a career-high 32 points (14-17 FGs) in less than 29 minutes of action. Expect him to be a major factor in tonight’s matchup.

Be sure to check out the Kings perspective over at Sactown Royalty.