PREGAME REPORT | MARCH 19, 2013
Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. PST | Sleep Train Arena | Sacramento, CA | Game Notes »
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SACRAMENTO – At this point every game matters.
The Clippers (46-21) travel to Sleep Train Arena for the first time this season Tuesday to take on the Sacramento Kings (23-44). While 15 games remain in the regular season, the Clippers are mere percentage points ahead of Memphis and Denver for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
“It’s very crucial,” Blake Griffin said. “Not just for the seeding, but you just want to be playing well going in to the playoffs, obviously. It’s a time when everybody’s intensity needs to be turned up and we need to be dialed in every single game, no matter who we are playing home or away. They’re all big games.”
A win in Sacramento would move the Clippers a full game ahead of both the Grizzlies and Nuggets, who have won 12 games in a row, as well as reduce their magic number to six to clinch their first-ever division title.
The Kings, though, despite alternating wins and losses in their last five games have proven tough at home of late. They beat the Bulls by 42 in Sacramento last week and have incurred close losses to San Antonio and Denver there since the All-Star break. They may be without center and leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins, who is listed as day-to-day with a left quad contusion. He has not played in Sacramento’s last two games. According to the Sacramento Bee, swingman Tyreke Evans (sore foot) is also questionable.
The Clippers, who defeated the Kings twice in L.A. this year, including a team record 35-point win on Dec. 1, may be without reserve point guard Eric Bledsoe (calf) for the third straight game. Coincidentally, Bledsoe was a teammate of Cousins’ at the University of Kentucky.
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 93, Knicks 80: With the banged up Knicks in town, the host Clippers pulled away behind a high-energy third quarter that included a sensational alley-oop from Paul to Griffin that punctuated a 16-3 run in the middle of the period. Caron Butler scored eight of his 14 points in the run.
“I thought in the third quarter we got a little bit more aggressive and got some easy put back and got a few things on the break,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I thought our defense was better. We held them down pretty well, other than a couple of things.”
The Knicks lost their fourth game in row and played without All-Stars Carmelo Anthony (knee) and Tyson Chandler (neck). Early on the Clippers did not take advantage, allowing New York to jump out to a lead as large as eight in the first quarter. The Clippers committed 10 turnovers in the first half, but thrived by holding New York to 30.2% shooting.
Griffin scored 12 points with 12 rebounds and Paul had a game-high 20 with eight assists.
Lakers 113, Kings 102: Playing the second game without Cousins did not bode well for Sacramento in their visit to Staples Center that followed the Clippers’ 13-point win over the Knicks. They allowed at least 30 points in two quarters, including being outscored 30-20 in the third quarter after briefly taking a lead immediately after halftime. The Kings gave up 12 3-pointers and allowed the Lakers to shoot 56.9%, including a 14-for-25 night combined from Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake off the bench. Jamison scored 27 points, while Metta World Peace went for 22 on 10-of-13 shooting. Isaiah Thomas scored a team-high 26 points with six assists.
Chris Paul vs. Isaiah Thomas. After Sacramento head coach Keith Smart spent much of the first half of the season trying to decide on a starting point guard, including using since waived Aaron Brooks at times, he finally settled on the 5-foot-9 Seattle native, Thomas. He has not disappointed. While not serving necessarily as a traditional point guard, Thomas has been a scoring threat. He’s had four games all season with eight or more assists, but he’s scored 20 points or more four times in his last six games this month.
That doesn’t mean he will cause trouble for Paul. In five career matchups with the Clippers’ six-time All-Star Thomas has never scored more than 17 points, despite exceeding 27 minutes in four of those games. Paul has averaged 19 points and 11 assists in the last three meetings against the Kings. In 21 minutes with Thomas on the court this season Paul has 16 points and is perfect (5-for-5) outside of 15 feet, meaning the 6-foot Paul has no problem shooting over the top of a smaller Thomas.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
High-scoring Kings. Sacramento is the tenth highest scoring team in the league, averaging 99.4 points per game. They have topped 100 points in nine of their 10 games since Feb. 26 (a double overtime loss to the streaking Miami Heat) and despite owning just a 4-6 record in that span, they have shown ability to score in bundles thanks to the shooting prowess of their diminutive backcourt of Thomas and Marcus Thornton.
“[They are an] explosive team,” Del Negro said of the Kings, who are first in the NBA in points per game (110.2) since the All-Star break. “They can score the ball at a high rate. They have a lot of young players and can put up big numbers, so we’re going to have to be tied into what we want to do to slow them down.”
In their previous two matchups with Sacramento this season, the Clippers have slowed the Kings down by limiting turnovers and fast-break opportunities. Sacramento averaged 9.0 points off turnovers in those two games, fewest of any Clippers opponent this season. They also managed only 6.5 points on the break (9.9 fewer than their regular-season average).
The Clippers have won five in row against the Kings, including two in a row in California’s capital… Sacramento has committed just 11 turnovers in the last two games combined… The Kings are 1-19 when an opponent shoots better than 50.0% from the field. The Clippers have shot better than 50.0% in five games since the All-Star break, all wins… Evans has not played against the Clippers yet this season, missing both games in L.A. due to injury... Matt Barnes, who has scored 14 or more points in four of the last five games, is from Sacramento and attended Del Campo High in nearby Fair Oaks, CA… The Clippers have a magic number of three to clinch their second consecutive playoff berth.