The Kings/Clippers contest on Friday night played out with a similar script to their loss in Los Angeles last week—fantastic effort, dynamic play from DeMarcus Cousins, and many highlights, but with a disappointing end result. The Clippers (12-5) won 104-98 in overtime, notching their third victory over the Kings (4-10) so far this season.
Cousins had 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the loss, while Blake Griffin had 21 points and 12 boards for the Clippers. Los Angeles played without star Chris Paul (hamstring) for the whole game, and without sharpshooter J.J. Redick (bruised wrist) for the second half, but their bench made up for it—Jamal Crawford had a game high 31 points, and Darren Collision had 15 starting in place of Paul.
The end-game was a bit of a letdown, despite the fact that rookie Ben McLemore sent the game into overtime with two free-throws with 17 seconds left. Cousins didn’t get the ball much in the closing minutes, and had just one shot in the final four minutes of regulation and overtime. While the Kings took an early 98-94 lead in overtime after two baskets by Patrick Patterson, Griffin hit on two straight shots to erase the lead and Crawford hit a basket and two free throws to seal it.
Williams Shines in Debut: Derrick Williams (12 points, six rebounds, four assists, 6-13 shooting) had a monster night in his debut. He had two monster alley-oop dunks and passed a third to McLemore late in the fourth quarter that nearly brought Sleep Train Arena down with him.
The highlight of William’s night was with 2:24 left in the fourth, where he caught an alley-oop from Greivis Vasquez and threw down a filthy dunk in the face of Griffin. The dunk had come after a foul by DeAndre Jordan on Cousins, and while the refs originally ruled the basket good, they discussed it and called off the dunk. On the imbounds, Cousins passed it right back to Williams for another alley-opp. William’s athleticism was on full display Friday night.
When asked about his new teammate, Vasquez told the Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones “I can get assists just by throwing the ball near the rim.”
Williams’ game wasn’t 100% a success, though – his outside jumpers, including two threes, were all pretty badly missed. His athleticism is a great addition, but his jumper needs big time work.
McLemore’s Growth Continues: The rookie McLemore had another solid game for Sacramento. His offense (14 points, 5-12 shooting, 1-6 from three) is still coming into form, but his defense was top-notch. He guarded Crawford when the two were on the floor together, even calling for the assignment late in the fourth, and was easily the most successful (much of Crawford’s damage was when he was guarded by Marcus Thornton or Isaiah Thomas).
While McLemore still has a ton of growing to do, his defense has vastly improved over what he was managing in the preseason. Those two dunks he had (a reverse slam in the first, an alley-oop from Williams late in the fourth) highlighted a very solid night by the rookie.
The new athletic combination of McLemore and Williams provides the Kings a ton of athleticism on the wings, and with excellent passers in Vasquez, Thomas and Cousins, there could be a lot of monster dunks in the future.
Malone shifts Rotation: The Jimmer Fredette experiment took a back seat on Friday, as Mike Malone decided to rely on Thornton (4 points, 2-4 shooting) and John Salmons (14 points, two assists on 6-11 shooting) instead. Thornton was fairly abysmal, taking a handful of bad shots and playing below-average defense. Salmons had one of his better games of the season, looking much more aggressive on the offensive end and playing solid defense.
For Fredette fans, the shift back to Thornton and Salmons wasn’t very promising, but it wasn’t as if Fredette set the world on fire with his playing time over the past four games.
IT Struggles: It was probably the worst game of the young season for Isaiah Thomas (five points, four turnovers, 2-5 shooting), who looked both frustrated and discombobulated. After contest against the Clippers in los Angeles last week, Thomas couldn’t do much right on either end in Sacramento. He couldn’t get his own offense rolling, failed to handle the ball and got torched multiple times by Collison or Crawford.
Other Notes: Vasquez (13 points, seven assists) had a solid game, but continued to struggle mightily on defense and was blown by time and time again by Collison… Neither Jason Thompson (six points, four rebounds) nor Patrick Patterson (seven points, nine rebounds) looked especially good in the loss, but Thompson rode the pine late in the game as Malone opted to go with Patterson… Travis Outlaw (10 minutes, zero points) was invisible all night, so you can’t blame Coach Malone for hoping Derrick Williams can fit at the Small Forward spot…Everything in the Kings final line was solid (46% shooting, 25/15 assist to turnover ratio, 44 rebounds to the Clippers 46) despite the loss… Hands off to confidence of the fan who missed the half-court shot for asking one of the Kings PA assistants to go out with him if he made the shot (only to find out she was married).