|CLIPPERS BOUNCE BACK AGAINST KINGS |
- RYAN MENEZES
The Clippers fought to maintain their playoff position against a non-playoff team Thursday night, weathering a late Kings run to escape Sacramento with a 93-85 win.
After taking on the Lakers in a frantic finish Wednesday night in Los Angeles, the pace wasn't quite the same at Power Balance Pavilion. It slowed to a near halt as the Kings went to a zone defense that stymied the Clippers in the second half.
"Everybody's coming after us. It doesn't matter if it's a team after us or a team like the Lakers," Randy Foye said. "Everyone knows what's at stake so everyone's coming after us and every game's like a playoff game."
It was the seventh win in eight games for the Clippers (33-22), who return home to face the Kings (19-36) again on Saturday.
Difference Maker: Once again, Eric Bledsoe was a sparkplug coming off the bench for 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting. His highlight play was a thunderous put-back dunk in the second quarter after he crashed the boards from the weak side of the Kings' zone.
Turning Point: All it took for Blake Griffin to get in a zone was for the Kings to go zone. it didn't happen right away, as the Kings slowly carved into a 10-point deficit and took a lead with less than eight minutes to play. The Kings had gone up three with four minutes to play when Griffin rolled off six straight points on a layup sandwiched between two long jumpers that put the Clippers up for good.
"I think the best thing we did was we got the ball out of my hands tonight," Paul said. "That's probably why we made (our shots down the stretch). It's just one of those gritty wins that we needed. We play this team again on Saturday and we've got to come out ready to play."
Stat Line of the Night: On an tough shooting night all around, Randy Foye chipped in a game-high 20 points on 7-of-17 from the field.
"Obviously a win is a win but we're not happy," Foye said. "We know we can play better, do a lot of things better."
More Stats: Both teams struggled from the field. The Clippers shot 45%, while the Kings shot 41.7%. The two teams combined to shoot 25% (9-of-36) on 3-pointers.
Chris Paul had 18 points, eight assists, five rebounds and five steals.
Caron Butler and Blake Griffin each had 14 points.
Hot: The Clippers bench, which all left its imprint in what's expected to be the last game they'll play without sixth man Mo Williams. They were part of a big run that extended the Clippers lead to double digits in the second quarter, an important stretch that gave the starters valuable rest. Bledsoe had his aforementioned energetic game, while Nick Young and Kenyon Martin each had seven points, Martin had five rebounds and Reggie Evans added six rebounds.
Not: Jimmer Fredette, who shot 3-of-10 from the field for the Kings.
Standings update: The Clippers moved to within two games of the Lakers, who were idle Thursday night. The Clippers remained at second in the Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference, two games ahead of the Grizzlies. No other West teams were in action Thursday.
On the style of the game:
Paul: "This was an ugly, ugly game. Probably for me more so than anybody. Blake came through down the stretch, hit some big shots for us. It got a little chippy but it's expected at this point in the season."
Vinny Del Negro: "It got a little physical in the end and we will take a look at that. The guys came out with a good mindset after last night's loss (Lakers) and it wasn't great basketball tonight, but we came away with the win."
On bouncing back:
Griffin: "We didn't want to lose two in a row. This is a game that matters -- every game matters. We didn't want to give up any easy ones."
On team's resiliency:
Griffin: "I think that's something we've learned in the past two months or whatever it's been. We've been in a lot of close games late. Most of the time you rely on CP (Chris Paul) or whoever is hot at the time."
On the difference down the stretch:
Tyreke Evans: "It was tough. Blake [Griffin] hit a couple jump shots down the stretch that helped them out a lot. Just no foul calls, going up and down but they got a couple that hurt us but other than that I think we played them well."
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