A 27-point lead for Los Angeles evaporated late in the game, forcing Clippers coach Doc Rivers to put back in his closing unit.
Leading 121-118 with 1:12 left in the fourth quarter, Lou Williams converted a six-foot jump shot, followed by Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris sinking late free throws to hold on for a 127-118 victory over the Sacramento Kings Wednesday at Staples Center.
“I don’t think that last group came in ready to play, you could see that,” said Rivers on his bench unit allowing a 19-0 run. “Give them credit, it’s funny with [Sacramento], they don’t go away, they keep playing, so it was a great lesson for our group.”
On a night where Los Angeles (20-14) saw seven players finish in double-figures, ball movement and unselfish play was surely on display.
“I thought there were stretches of that,” added Rivers on his team making the extra pass for 23 total assists. “That’s what we have to do to be a good team. There was a stretch in the third quarter where it was just beautiful basketball to watch.”
Williams scored 24 points, Montrezl Harrell added 22 points and nine rebounds and was pleased to hear coach Rivers compare his style of play to former great, Charles Barkley.
“It’s a blessing, man,” Harrell said. “That’s one of the game’s greats as a power forward. He was an undersized guy who definitely competed, and he was a force to be reckoned with. It’s a blessing that my coach feels that way about me, but I can’t stop there. I have to keep working.”
Harris scored 17 points and Avery Bradley and Gallinari added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
For the Kings (18-16), De’Aaron Fox led the team with 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds, while his backcourt mate Buddy Hield struggled, scoring only 11 points on 4 of 18 shooting.
Even in the loss, Fox is optimistic on the maturation of what Hield and himself can become in the future.
“I think we can be one of the best backcourts in the league,” Fox said. “Definitely with his scoring and shooting ability. We feed off each other well, I’m able to get him in spots that he needs, and he makes tough shots at that. I think we definitely complement each other’s games well.”
Although Sacramento is trending in the right direction with an above .500 record, defensively they continued to struggle against Los Angeles in the first half.
“We’ve got to do a better job defending,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “We struggled to defend again. We allowed 71 points in the first half, too many points in the paint, they shot 50 percent and had 14 offensive rebounds. That’s too high a number. Too many straight-line drives to the basket.”
With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, it was Sacramento’s second unit that gave the Clippers trouble, igniting a 19-0 run.
Ben McLemore scored 11 points, making three-of-four shots from long distance, while Frank Mason and Yogi Ferrell both added six points apiece.
The Kings cut their deficit to only three (118-121), with a little over one minute to play, but Los Angeles went on to close the game out with a 6-0 run of their own.
“They played with a lot of energy. They came in and were an aggressive team,” Gallinari said on the Kings bench unit trying to steal the game late. “They were shooting all of their shots and most of them were open shots. It’s OK, we got the win.”