The Sacramento Kings limp to the finish line continued Saturday in Los Angeles against the Clippers. The one thing you can say is that it’s not a matter of effort. The Kings are still trying to win games and can usually give a team a fight for three quarters. But in the end, talent wins out, and the Kings losing streak stretched to five games. The Clippers, who are set to hit the playoffs as the West’s No. 3 seed, withstood the Kings best effort and still coasted to victory. LA’s uptempo style was capped off by a late-game three-point barrage to give the Clippers a 117-101 victory.
KINGS OFFENSE STYMIED – The Kings never appeared that proficient offensively, and the Clippers defense deserves plenty of credit for that. Sacramento’s ball movement was lacking, and too many players tried forcing the dribble into the paint. That happens to play right into the Clippers strength, and Los Angeles frequently slapped balls away to start fast breaks. DeAndre Jordan served as the rim protector, swatting away seven shots. The Kings had trouble getting to the basket and struggled from the perimeter, shooting a poor 42.7 percent from the field.
MCLEMORE’S FUNNY DAY – It was a rollercoaster afternoon for Kings rookie Ben McLemore. McLemore (32 MIN, 14 PTS, 3-7 FG, 2-4 3FG, 6-6 FT, 1 REB) played a quiet first half, most notable for going scoreless and some defensive lapses. Suddenly, in the third quarter, McLemore came alive. He got to the line, knocked down some shots and capped the period with a buzzer-beating triple that brought the Kings within six. All 14 of his points came in the third frame. But after picking up an earlier questionable technical foul for what Joey Crawford perceived as late, unnecessary contact to Blake Griffin, McLemore was ejected for retaliating after a JJ Redick foul. Neither technical was anything for fans to be concerned about — the first was nothing and the second was just a high push to Redick. Actually, aside from it stopping his suddenly hot hand, the ejection is nice to see from the normally mild-mannered McLemore. You’d like to see the rook get more aggressive on the court.
MCCALLUM VS. CP3 – The indoctrination of Ray McCallum continued on Saturday with a test against one of the premier point guards in the NBA, Chris Paul. The result? Another respectable effort from McCallum. Ray Mac (40 MIN, 8 PTS, 4-13 FG, 8 AST, 2 BLK, 2 TO) looked best defensively. Nobody is going to shut down Paul or stop the Clippers, but McCallum did a solid job of staying in front of Paul and not biting on his many ball-fakes. He also had a beautiful chase-down block on Darren Collison to prevent an easy lay-up. Offense was a different story, as McCallum found it hard to initiate much against the quick Paul. He did manage to pick up a few baskets based purely on determination and sticking with loose balls around the rim. Coach Michael Malone even gave him some added rest, “limiting” him to 40 minutes (his lowest total since Isaiah Thomas went down).
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Rudy Gay (34 MIN, 16 PTS, 6-18 FG, 6 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 2 TO) was clearly rusty after sitting out two games, and who knows how healthy he actually his. He didn’t look comfortable offensively and struggled to get separation from Matt Barnes … Kings killer Jamal Crawford was an ugly 1-for-6 before knocking down two big three-pointers in the final minutes. Rare to see him miss shots against Sacramento … Reggie Evans (34 MIN, 14 PTS, 4-6 FG, 6-8 FT, 14 REB, 1 STL) was a beast early on, even contributing in the scoring column. Evans’ work on the offensive glass is also a huge boost … DeMarcus Cousins’ line looks great, but the big man tried to do too much. Hard to fault him with the struggles of his teammates, but Cousins (43 MIN, 32 PTS, 12-27 FG, 8-9 FT, 12 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK, 6 TO) wasn’t efficient, finishing with six turnovers before fouling out.