The Los Angeles Clippers have dealt with injuries, but most importantly is a roster that has seen 28 different starting lineup changes on the season.
The Sacramento Kings have battled through adversity of their own but looked much more like the team in need of a Western Conference win after beating the Clippers 112-103 on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.
Kent Bazemore led the Kings with a season-high 23 points, Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox both added 20 while Sacramento (23-33) gave Los Angeles (37-19) its first three-game losing streak of the year.
“We had a lot of different people helping out, and it felt good,” Sacramento coach Luke Walton said. “We were solid for most of the game. We had a couple of drop-offs where we got a little sloppy, but it was one of our more consistent games.”
Kawhi Leonard fresh off becoming the first Kobe Bryant MVP award winner in Chicago played well scoring 31 points in a losing effort. Lou Williams added 24 and Montrezl Harrell had 16 and 10 rebounds.
Los Angeles trailed 25-13 in the first period and had five turnovers to go along with shooting only 16 percent from the field. The Clippers recovered in the second and outscored the Kings 35-19, cutting their deficit to six at halftime, 54-48.
“[We struggled with] turnovers and a lot of missed open shots too. I’ve always hated when you play a team that’s played already [after a break] and then you play them,” said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.
“We can find excuses, but we have to play better. I didn’t think we played well. Offensively, even though we missed shots, I thought we were very sloppy and that happens after the All-Star break.”
With Paul George and Patrick Beverley both sidelined due to nagging injuries, newly acquired guard Reggie Jackson made his Clippers debut and scored eight points in his first start in 23 minutes.
“That was (Jackson’s) first game, and because of our injury issues, we had to start him,” Rivers said. “It is what it is.”
In the third, Sacramento captured its largest lead of the game with a 14-point advantage, 81-67 with 3:48 remaining, but Los Angeles ended the period on a 16-7 run get within five.
However, after the Clippers lead briefly with a 101-99 advantage in the fourth after Jackson converted a three-pointer, Los Angeles went completely cold from that point on with 6:03 remaining.
“We couldn’t make a shot in the end,” said Williams. “We waited too long to start playing hard and get our legs back under us. They were in a good rhythm.”
Los Angeles was held scoreless for five straight minutes down in crunch time, and Sacramento used a 10-0 run capped off by an emphatic Harry Giles’ alley-oop dunk from Bogdanovic with 58 seconds left, ultimately resulting in the 112-103 victory for the Kings.
“We’re feeling a lot better about ourselves now,” Fox said. “Obviously we need to keep this going, but we came out of the All-Star break and we were prepared. We’re in a good place right now. We can only control ourselves as far as the rest of the season goes, but we’re feeling good.”
As for the Clippers, Leonard admitted that it’s time to start playing with a level of urgency after the team suffered its third consecutive loss, as the team currently sits at third place in the Western Conference standings behind the Denver Nuggets (39-18).
“You never know what could happen, but now. The time is now. Just got to keep getting better. Doesn’t matter what seed,” said Leonard. “Just got to keep fighting. It’s about the right team peaking at the right time. I don’t think we’ve even got there yet.”