Kings take massive leap, upset Clippers on road


Nov 2, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (right) and Sacramento Kings forward Derrick Williams (left) and Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (center) battle for the rebound during the second quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

You’re not alone if you spent most of Sunday’s matinee just waiting for the Clippers to rise up and dispose of the Sacramento Kings. After all, this was a Kings team that, despite an impressive win over Portland on Friday, had not proven themselves on the road in a decade. But maybe this is a new era in Kings basketball? Clippers runs were limited by active Sacramento defense, and the Kings offense ran efficiently around their two studs. Unlike years past, Sacramento did not succumb in the waning moments, taking down the Clippers, 98-92. In the process, the Kings took another big step forward in their hope to become relevant again.

BIG TWO CARRY THE LOAD — The Team USA tournament for DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay has been well-documented, and Kings fans are now seeing some benefits from that summer experience. Cousins and Gay did more than just carry the Kings offense; they recognized what needed to be done at what moment, played together and made sound decisions. Cousins’ high-low dish to Jason Thompson with 1:48 left was as big as any play in the game — last year, the big man may have forced his own shot in traffic.

Cousins (34 MIN, 34 PTS, 15-23 FG, 4-5 FT, 17 REB, 5 AST, 4 TO, 3 BLK) manhandled a Clippers frontline that rivals any in the league. He scored at will against double and triple teams, specifically in the third quarter when the game could have swung, and his relentless effort was the mark of a true leader. Gay, coming off a huge 40-point game against the Blazers, picked up where he left off. Undeterred by LA’s physical defense, Gay (39 MIN, 25 PTS, 7-14 FG, 10-11 FT, 7 REB, 6 AST, 4 TO, 1 STL) scored on his typical variety of mid-range moves. He also limited his forces and was a willing distributor.

NO LET-UP IN THIS DEFENSE — Admittedly, the Clippers missed some looks that are normally automatic. But good things tend to happen on defense when you play with maximum effort. The Kings continued to flex their muscle defensively, holding LA to a 37.5 percent mark from the field. DMC and Jason Thompson provided strength on the interior, and a timely off-night for JJ Redick helped ease the burden on the perimeter. Sacramento saved its best for last, allowing just 18 fourth-quarter points and only six in the final four minutes.

COLLISON COMES THROUGH LATE — Darren Collison is in a tough position, having to prove himself to a large part a fanbase that still wants his predecessor. With that weight on his shoulders, the early returns are in, and Collison has been terrific. Playing against his former mates, Collison (39 MIN, 14 PTS, 4-12 FG, 6-6 FT, 5 REB, 4 AST, 3 TO, 1 BLK) was the steadying hand he was signed to be, playing under control offensively and pressuring Chris Paul around the floor. Unexpectedly, Collison was called upon in crunch time for some big plays, and he came through in the clutch. The Kings lead guard drilled a jumper with 52 seconds left to put Sac up four, then calmly dropped two free throws with 18 seconds left to maintain that lead.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS — Ben McLemore (20 MIN, 3 PTS, 1-4 FG) still can’t make an open shot, but he may have set the tone with an early hard foul on Blake Griffin. Griffin, per usual, overreacted and flailed his arms at McLemore while on the floor. These teams have bad blood dating back to last year, and it was good to just get it out in the open early … With the Kings shooting guard totally ineffective, Coach Michael Malone rode with Omri Casspi at off-guard down the stretch. Casspi (16 MIN, 6 PTS, 2-2 FG, 6 REB, 3 AST) gave a different look defensively, and his activity was an asset on both ends. We may see more of that if a true shooting guard can’t step up … Nik Stauskas (21 MIN, 3 PTS, 1-3 FG) did block 3 shots, and his defense has been better than advertised coming out of Michigan. He has struggled to find room offensively, and that continued in LA, as Chris Paul spent time marking the sharpshooter … The Clippers played four former Kings — Matt Barnes, Spencer Hawes, Hedo Turkolgu and Jared Cunningham … Ramon Sessions could be (and should be) in danger of losing playing time to Ray McCallum (DNP). Sessions (9 MIN, 0 PTS, 0-2 FG, 0-2 FT, 1 TO) was dreadful in a second-half stint, fouling up three consecutive Kings possessions (two missed free throws, missed shot in the lane, turnover).