With a 16-15 record coming into the matchup against the Kings, the Clippers risked falling into play-in territory if a loss ensued. The absences of Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, and Isaiah Hartenstein did not do much to help their case, but they ultimately prevailed on the road in a 105-89 win.
The Clippers were able to control the first quarter, commanding a lead throughout the period. Terance Mann led the way with nine points, and Ivica Zubac chipped in six points with four rebounds to add. Perhaps the most impressive takeaway from that quarter, however, was the defense—they held Buddy Hield to zero points on six misses, including four misses from behind the arc.
The second quarter was much of the same story, as the Clippers extended their lead to 11 points at halftime. While Tyrese Haliburton led the Kings with 12 points in the half, the Clippers had no players in double digits, demonstrating the team-oriented attack that they employed. Considering the fact that they shot below 20 percent from distance (and that Paul George only shot 25 percent from the field), it’s even more impressive that they could hold such a lead. De’Aaron Fox’s absence surely contributed, but it was the energy from players like Mann that powered the Clippers in the first half.
Give that Mann the ball!— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) December 23, 2021
@BallySportWest | @terance_mann pic.twitter.com/ryJNC279MK
The Kings did gain some momentum in the third quarter—while Hield began hitting his shots, Haliburton and Harrison Barnes started to convert more on the offensive end. In fact, the lead (which was as large as 19 at one point) shrunk to just five after a Paul George technical with two minutes to go in the third quarter, as the home team capitalized on a 20-7 run that the Clippers struggled to slow down.
At the start of the fourth quarter, however, they quickly regained control with a 10-2 run in less than three minutes. The lineup to do that included the rookies Keon Johnson and Brandon Boston, but it was Amir Coffey who led them on the court. He played aggressive defense and used a score-first mentality to take advantage of the Kings’ defensive lapses.
Eric Bledsoe led the team with a sneaky 19 points (along with eight rebounds and six assists), and Serge Ibaka’s 15 points off the bench were instrumental without Hartenstein—though those players are just part of the all-around team win in Sacramento. A victory amidst their inconsistent play will hopefully encourage some holiday cheer, but with games becoming more and more consequential, it’s important the Clippers can keep this up through the new year.