With their top three scorers from last season in the starting lineup together for the first time, the Sacramento Kings delivered their best offensive performance of 2007-08.
Looking to build on that victory, the Kings go for their season-high fourth straight win on Wednesday when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers in a matchup between the teams with the worst records in the Pacific Division.
Sacramento (18-22) struggled early this season while playing without some of its top offensive options. Point guard Mike Bibby missed the first 36 games with a thumb injury, a groin strain sidelined shooting guard Kevin Martin for 17 games, and forward Ron Artest missed seven games while serving a suspension and another nine with an elbow injury.
Martin returned to a reserve role Jan. 12, and Bibby and Artest came off the bench two games later on Jan. 16. The trio has helped the Kings win a season-high three consecutive games, and Sacramento has won six of eight following a 1-6 stretch.
Bibby, Martin and Artest started together for the first time on Tuesday, combining for 61 points in the Kings' 128-94 win over New Jersey. Sacramento shot a season-high 57.5 percent in reaching its highest point total of the season. It was also the Kings' largest margin of victory in more than two years, dating to their 119-83 win over Utah on Nov. 15, 2005.
"We were hitting on all cylinders tonight," said Bibby, who had 15 points and seven assists in his first home game of the season. "Everything was rolling for us. We got the layups, we got the rebounds, we outrebounded them, we were shooting the ball well. Everything went well for us.
"I think we're going to be all right. If we play like we did tonight, play hard at both ends, things will work themselves out."
While the Kings are finally healthy, the Clippers (12-25) haven't been as lucky. They're 4 1/2 games behind the Kings in the Pacific, thanks in part to the absences of Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston, who haven't played yet this season because of Achilles' tendon and knee surgeries, respectively.
Brand and Livingston expect to return before the end of the season, but each player appears at least a month away.
Brand's absence has paved the way for the emergence of Los Angeles center Chris Kaman, who's averaging 17.4 points and 13.7 rebounds - topping his previous career highs of 11.9 points and 9.6 boards, set in 2005-06.
Kaman had 17 points and 10 rebounds on Monday, but the Clippers committed 20 turnovers that led to 29 points in their 109-93 loss to Utah.
"You just have to look at one stat line. Our 20 turnovers led to 29 points for them, which tells the story of the game for us," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "There were too many easy baskets because of our turnovers. They established a style of play and played a more physical game than us."
The Clippers won the first meeting between these teams, 97-87 on Dec. 7 in Sacramento as Kaman had 26 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 9-for-12 from the field. Artest led the Kings with 21 points, but was just 8-for-22 as Sacramento shot 38.0 percent - the Kings' second-worst shooting performance of the season.
Neither Bibby nor Martin played in that contest.
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