Another day, another blown chance to win a game.
Despite playing some of the worst defense of the season for much of the game (and that’s saying something given the Kings are the worst defensive team in the NBA), the Kings managed to claw their way back against a Clippers team that scored 72 points in the first half thanks to the play of Bogdan Bogdanovic (career-high 22 points) and George Hill (21 points).
Bogdanovic and Hill were particularly good in the second half, with Hill getting to the line for 13 attempts (I’d be willing to bet that’s the most a King has gotten to the line this entire season) and keeping the Kings right there with the Clippers up until the end. Sacramento even took the lead a couple times in the final five minutes, but just when it looked like the Kings might have a chance to win this game, they threw it away, quite literally. With less than 24 seconds left, the Kings executed a backdoor trap perfectly, forcing Lou Williams to throw a desperate heave into the frontcourt that was picked off by Kosta Koufos. With the Kings down by just 2 points, they had a chance to hold for the final shot and either get into extra time or win the game outright. Instead, Koufos threw a telegraphed pass to George Hill that was picked off by Clippers rookie forward Tyrone Wallace. Wallace streaked towards the hoop with no opposition and dunked the ball to essentially end Sacramento’s hopes.
That turnover was Koufos’ only one of the game, and it put a real sour note on an otherwise good night for him, as he scored 14 points on 7-8 shooting to go with 14 boards, and he helped close off the paint that was so open to the Clippers in the first half. Montrezl Harrell in particular was living there, scoring 16 of his 25 points in the second quarter and making 11 of 12 shots, all of which were essentially dunks.
Lou Williams also torched the Kings for a game-high 30 points even if it was on an inefficient 10-24 from the field. Hill stepped up his defense on Williams down the stretch, but even still, Williams made some very tough shots down the stretch. Blake Griffin wasn’t spectacular in his first game back from a concussion, but even still managed to score 18 points with 12 rebounds and 6 assists. He was also making mincemeat of Skal Labissiere on the other end whenever they were matched up. Skal still needs to get a lot stronger to go up against bigs like Griffin, Harrell or DeAndre Jordan.
Speaking of Jordan, he only played 11 minutes because he landed awkwardly after a dunk at the end of the second quarter. He did not return for the game but was able to walk off the court under his own power.
The Kings offense was not really a problem tonight. The team shot 49.4% from the field, and even got to the line for 28 attempts. They also had 23 assists to 15 turnovers. But Sacramento will continue to lose many games when they give up so many points and don’t start playing defense until the fourth quarter. There were so many moments in the first half particularly where the Clippers were able to score without breaking a sweat. Missed assignments, bad rotations, and poor effort were prevalent. Sure, the Kings scored 39 of their own in the second quarter, but that doesn’t mean anything when the other team scores 43.
The Kings and Clippers both get a day off before they head to L.A. for a rematch on Saturday. For the opponent’s perspective, visit Clips Nation.