Los Angeles Clippers vs. Sacramento Kings
When: 10:30 PM ET, Friday, January 6, 2017
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), CSN California (Sacramento)
PREDICTION: Clippers 120, Kings 111
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings hang out on opposite ends of the Western Conference, yet they seem always to have one thing in common that always comes to light when they face each other.
They each struggle to get out of their own way when it comes to being their own worst enemy.
The Clippers may be stabilizing and besides two straight wins into Friday’s visit to Sacramento, they are also eying the return of All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
Paul may return from the left hamstring injury that has caused him to miss four straight games and seven of the past eight. Paul, who stands six assists away from moving past Rod Strickland into 10th on the NBA’s all-time list, had a strenuous workout before Los Angeles’ 115-106 home win over the Memphis Grizzlies, and coach Doc Rivers said Paul is close.
“Chris looked great (Wednesday),” he told the Los Angeles Daily News. “Had a full workout, played up and down. We’ll just wait to see how he feels.”
The win over the Grizzlies likely lifted Rivers’ spirits for reasons other than it came shortly after a six-game losing streak. Los Angeles did not commit a technical foul for the second straight contest, a priority Rivers told reporters he set forth in a “long talk with the team” in which he reviewed all 32 the team has earned this season. The Clippers’ total is third in the NBA.
“I told them that doesn’t represent us, and I made a pledge to them,” Rivers told the Los Angeles Times, pointing the finger at himself and his six technical fouls, second-most among NBA coaches. “I have to be the leader of this team, so my actions have to come first. … We’re reversing this. I’m getting no more, and I’m holding everyone accountable.”
Accountability, or the lack of it, continues to be a running theme for the Kings (15-20), and they acknowledged taking a gigantic leap backward by kicking off a season-high seven-game homestand with a 107-102 loss to the undermanned Miami Heat on Wednesday.
Sacramento has lost three of four since a season-best four-game winning streak that began with DeMarcus Cousins scoring 55 points in a 126-121 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 20.
Cousins was held to a season-low 13 points and shot 4-of-15 in a game where the Kings trailed by 19 in the third quarter.
“It’s part of the maturing of a team, and we have to get better at it,” Kings’ forward Garrett Temple said. “It’s like Darren (Collison) said (Tuesday) after we won in Denver. Yeah, it’s a good win, but it means nothing if we lose the next one. Well, we lost the next one. We’ve got to become more consistent in that regard.”
Sacramento’s loss was one of its more disheartening in recent memory. The Kings, playing a youthful, rebuilding Heat team reeling from injuries, showed barely a ripple of intensity in allowing 87 points in the first 34 minutes to a team that was averaging 98.2 per game.
“It’s not easy to come out whether it be the start of a half or the start of a game with the type of energy level and intensity you need to kick of the proper defensive mindset,” Kings forward Arron Afflalo said. “Defensively, we have to be more ready to play and not give teams a quick run, because those things are hard to overcome.”
The Clippers, who also have been without All-Star forward Blake Griffin (arthroscopic knee surgery) since Dec. 18, have won eight straight contests in Sacramento.
Los Angeles is 17-3 in the last 20 meetings since acquiring Paul prior to the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.