Hopefully the hangover from Wednesday’s season opening bonanza has faded away like the smoke from the pre-game fireworks, because a much better team travels to Sacramento tonight. The Los Angeles Clippers (1-1) are true contenders in the West, and the Kings (1-0) will have their hands full with a very talented offensive team.
Los Angeles Clippers:
|C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky
30 PPG, 14 RPG, 2 BPG, 50% FG
|C: DeAndre Jordan, 6’11, Texas A&M
13 PPG, 14 RPG, 2 BPG, 57.9% FG
|PF: Patrick Patterson, 6’9, Kentucky
3 PPG, 6 RPG, 3 SPG, 16.7% FG
|PF: Blake Griffin, 6’9, Oklahoma
21 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 63% FG
|SF: John Salmons, 6’6, Miami (FL)
9 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 SPG, 33% FG
|SF: Jared Dudley, 6’7, Boston College
7.5 PPG, 2 RPG, 2 APG, 50% FG
|SG: Marcus Thornton, 6’4, LSU
4 PPG, 2 RPG, 16.7% FG
|SG: J.J. Redick, 6’4, Duke
15 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 41.7% 3P
|PG: Greivis Vasquez, 6’6, Maryland
17 PPG, 4 APG, 2 RPG, 67% FG
|PG: Chris Paul, 6’3, Wake Forest
28.5 PPG, 13 APG, 5.5 SPG, 51.5% FG
Key Bench Players:
|G: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington
29 MPG, 16 PPG, 5 APG, 56% FG
|G: Darren Collison, 6’0, UCLA
12 MPG, 4.5 PPG, 1 APG, 50% FG
|G: Ben McLemore, 6’5, Kansas
17 MPG, 4 PPG, 14% FG
|G: Jamal Crawford, 6’5, Michigan
24 MPG, 16 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 45.5% 3P
|C: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider
17 MPG, 2 PPG, 3 RPG, 50% FG
|F: Matt Barnes, 6’7, UCLA
23 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 30% FG
Last Three Contests:
April 17th, 2013: Clippers @ Kings – Clippers 112, Kings 108
March 19th, 2013: Clippers @ Kings – Kings 116, Clippers 101
December 21, 2012: Kings @ Clippers – Clippers 97, Kings 85
Key Matchup: DeMarcus Cousins vs. DeAndre Jordan
New Clippers Coach Doc Rivers needs the inconsistent Jordan to transform into a defensive beast in the post this year. Jordan is one of the best athletes at his position, but he’s never managed to put it all together. He’s has been better in the two games this season, and he’s been a beast on the boards, but his defense is still not where Coach Rivers needs it to be.
In the one preseason matchup where these two players battled (the second of the two meetings, when the Kings won 110-100) Cousins never got completely comfortable but still finished with 20 points and seven boards. DeMarcus will need to establish himself in the low-post and test Jordan often.
Three Things to Watch:
1. Keep it up, Cuz: There was little to dislike in Cousins’ performance against the Nuggets. He attacked the low post, showed off some fancy footwork and dominated the glass. He kept his emotions mostly in check despite some extra-dubious foul calls/non-foul calls.
Cousins needs to keep the intensity up big time. He’s got a decent slate of big men to class with for the early season, and DeAndre Jordan may be the most athletic of them. Hopefully the improvements in his shot selection and decision making keep up.
2. The CP3 Factor: Chris Paul lit up the Warriors for 42 points, 15 assists and six steals in the Clippers 126-115 victory last night. The Warriors defense struggled all night long to contain Paul on any front, and Stephan Curry was pretty much useless against Paul’s midrange shot. Add in Paul’s ability and fondness to throw ally-ops to his big men and you’ve got one of the scariest assignments for the Kings point combo to handle.
Chris Paul is still the game’s best point guard, and neither Greivis Vasquez nor Isaiah Thomas can stop him completely, but they need to stick with him as best they can.
The team as a whole has to be careful about letting Paul get in a rhythm. The Clippers are one of the most athletic teams in the game, and when they’re running, the Kings stand no chance of keeping up with their athleticism.
3. Offensive Solutions: Take a look at those Kings stats in the projected lineups—specifically, the field goal percentages. Kings not named Cousins, Vasquez or Thomas shot 24.7% from the field on Wednesday. This might be why Coach Malone went with lineups that featured both Vasquez and Thomas, although it was a successful experiment.
The Kings need more production offensively, especially from Marcus Thornton, the lone King on Wednesday who didn’t look focused. He had one good moment—the alley-op to Cousins—but the rest of the game was a wash for Lil’ Buckets. Ben McLemore shot just 1-7 from the field, but he at least played hard (especially on that missed dunk).
Prediction: Clippers 109, Kings 97