SACRAMENTO KINGS

Kings hope to prevent 3rd straight loss to Clippers this season

Feb 24, 2024, 5:50 PM | Updated: Feb 25, 2024, 7:34 am

Russell Westbrook #0 of the LA Clippers dribbles to the basket in front of Keegan Murray #13 of the...

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 12: Russell Westbrook #0 of the LA Clippers dribbles to the basket in front of Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings during a 119-99 Clippers win at Crypto.com Arena on December 12, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Clippers hope to further distance themselves from the Sacramento Kings in the standings while also gaining a potential tiebreaker when the top two teams in the Pacific Division go head-to-head on Sunday night in Southern California.

The Clippers responded to a Kings home win over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday with a 101-95 triumph at Memphis on Friday to re-establish a five-game advantage with 27 games to play.

Los Angeles has won the first two games of the season series — 131-117 in Sacramento in November and 119-99 at home in December — and can assure itself of the season-series win with a victory either Sunday or on April 2 in Sacramento.

The Clippers have run away from the Kings with accurate shooting in the first two meetings, hitting at a 53.8 percent clip in the road win, then 52.4 percent at home. The Kings, meanwhile, were held to 46.5 percent and 41.9 percent, respectively.

Los Angeles even bettered the Kings at their own long-range game, outscoring them 75-69 on 3-pointers despite far fewer attempts, making 25 of 57 (43.9 percent) while Sacramento went just 23-for-78 (29.5 percent).

The Clippers also have found a way to neutralize Domantas Sabonis, the NBA leader in triple-doubles. Sabonis has totaled just 26 points, 15 rebounds and six assists in the two games, recording just one double-double.

In fact, when Sabonis went for just 11 points, five rebounds and three assists in the meeting in Sacramento, it marked the last time he didn’t have a double- or triple-double in a game this season.

The big guy’s streak of double-doubles reached 38 with a triple-double (22 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) in Thursday’s 127-122 win over the Spurs. De’Aaron Fox contributed 28 points and nine assists.

Afterward, Kings coach Mike Brown took time to praise Fox for his improved defense, which he put on display when rejecting a Devin Vassell dunk attempt in the final minute of a tight finish.

“I think Foxy can be one of the best two-way guys to play in the NBA,” Brown said. “I coached him at a camp when he was in high school and I’ll never forget, I was just amazed at this strength for a smaller guy. He’s wiry thin, but he’s wiry strong, too. So when you’re that athletic, you’re that quick, you’re that long — you can be a great defender.”

The Kings would be wise to focus more defensive attention on the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, who had 34 and 31 points in the earlier wins.

Leonard went for 24 points, making 10 of his 18 shots, in Friday’s win at Memphis.

The victory over the Grizzlies was a marked improvement over the Clippers’ play a night earlier in a 129-107 blowout loss at Oklahoma City. Mission accomplished, Leonard noted.

“We want to make sure that we are for sure top-six (in the Western Conference),” Leonard said of a team that will take the third-best record in the West onto the court Sunday. “No matter if we’re the No. 1 seed or the 6 seed, we got to get better. That’s the goal. That’s the agenda.”

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–Field Level Media

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