Clippers, Kings ready for second battle in three days
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LOS ANGELES -- If the sequel is as good as the original, expect a fantastic finish when the Sacramento Kings visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.
Fresh off Thursday's 121-115 Clippers victory at Sacramento on Thursday, the Kings will be aiming to avenge their second-half comeback attempt that fell short.
The Clippers enter the contest on a three-game winning streak, and have won seven of their last nine games and nine of their last 12. It is a vast improvement from a troubled November that included a nine-game losing streak.
The Kings, meanwhile, are desperate to gain some traction. Since defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 27 at home, Sacramento has lost six of its last seven games, defeating only the Denver Nuggets in that stretch.
They appeared to have the Clippers in their sights Thursday after trailing by as many as 14 points in the final quarter, but their comeback attempt was nullified. Rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a career high 22 points for Sacramento.
"We have to start games with a lot more effort, a lot more aggressiveness, a lot more motor," Kings coach Dave Joerger told the media in the aftermath of Thursday's defeat. "Those things are what make defensive players and defensive mindsets."
In a game that registered 236 total points in 48 minutes, there was nothing that screamed defense from the Kings or Clippers, but defense did ultimately win out in the end.
Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace, who has all of four NBA games to his credit, made a late steal and basket to secure the Clippers' latest victory with less than 11 seconds remaining. Consider the Kings well versed on Wallace now, who had a modest eight points Thursday, but was coming off a 22-point game Wednesday at Golden State.
With all the Clippers' injury woes this season, a number of key contributors have emerged and Wallace is just the latest. Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Johnson, Willie Reed, C.J. Williams and Jawun Evans have all made key contributions. Harrell scored a season-best 25 on Thursday, going 11-for-12 from the field.
But the injury bug has not ceased. Blake Griffin (concussion) and Milis Teodosic (foot) both returned to action Thursday, but Williams sprained his right ankle Wednesday and DeAndre Jordan sprained his left ankle Thursday. Both players left those respective games and did not return.
"One guy comes back one guy has to go out," said Griffin, according to the Los Angeles Times, trying to provide some levity to the situation. "I mean you obviously hate to see that happen."
January is not even to its midway point, yet the Clippers and Kings will be meeting for the final time this season. The contest gives the Kings an immediate opportunity to make defensive adjustments and see how effective they can be.
Finding the slightest improvement should not be difficult. The Clippers scored 72 points in the first half Thursday and 71 against the Kings in the first half on Dec. 26. Those are two of the three biggest scoring halves the Kings have allowed this season.
The Clippers have won four straight over the Kings, including all three games this season, and seven of the last eight meetings. They have a 22-4 advantage in the matchup going back to March 2012.
If the Kings break through, it will have to be without guard Frank Mason, who isn't expected back until February because of a partial tear in his right plantar fascia.
While Jordan is "questionable" for the Clippers, Patrick Beverley (knee), Danilo Gallinari (glute), Austin Rivers (ankle) and Williams (ankle) are all out.
Jordan's quick return would be impressive considering the level of pain he appeared to be in Thursday.
"I don't know if it's bad or not, to be honest," Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters after the game. "He's just upset because he doesn't like missing anything. He literally wanted to play in the second half and we just wouldn't let him play."
Updated January 13, 2018