Time: 12:30 p.m. PST
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Where to watch: CSNCA, Prime Ticket, NBA LP
This weekend, the Sacramento Kings will take a quick road trip down south while trying to sustain their elevated play of late.
A 2-7 start to the season sucked the life out a season that had only just begun before the Kings were fortunate enough to catch the Phoenix Suns on back-to-back nights without Eric Bledsoe. The first two quarters or so of Tuesday’s game aside, what Sacramento was able to find in its third and fourth wins of the season was a balance and cohesion that was lacking before.
“I really felt that we were trying to make plays for each other on the court,” Malone said of Wednesday’s game against the Suns. “Some of the ball movement we had in that last Phoenix game was tremendous.”
Tonight, when the Kings square off against the Los Angeles Clippers, their newfound rhythm will be put to the test.
On the back of a superb Chris Paul performance (becoming something of a routine for the Los Angeles point guard this season), Sacramento was exposed and picked apart so badly that even a furious late-game comeback – in which Isaiah Thomas seemed nigh unstoppable – couldn’t close the gap.
“Isaiah’s kind of the catalyst off the bench, scoring in double figures every game – like I always say, ‘put tremendous pressure on the opposing team,’” Malone said. “The bench has stepped up for us, playing well, putting points up for us and looking to make plays for each other, which is nice.”
The Kings bench, despite its ultimately futile effort, was a key in the last meeting with the Clippers and both teams’ reserves will be big factors again tonight.
Los Angeles’ offseason was headlined by acquisitions of Doc Rivers and oft-overlooked veteran wings J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. Still, though, the Clippers lack depth up front, something the Kings will need to exploit if they’re to emerge with a victory.
Attacking the basket will be important for Sacramento, as getting either Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan into foul trouble serves a dual-purpose.
One, it takes threats in the paint and fastbreak away from Paul, who frequently finds both players for lobs. (Griffin is also capable of create for himself, obviously.) Secondly, with Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins spelling the starters, the post really opens up for the Kings when the Clippers’ second-string frontcourt is in the game.
If the Clippers’ starters remain on the floor, though, they’ll likely wear down and wreak havoc on the Kings. In the last meeting, Los Angeles’ effectiveness on the outside and inside had Sacramento completely discombobulated and Paul easily found open teammates amidst the confusion.
Against the Suns, the Kings’ defensive rotations have looked as good as they have all season long, something they’ll have to continue in order to keep trending northward in Southern California this weekend.