LOS ANGELES—De’Aaron Fox scored 24 points and Terence Davis added 23 in the Sacramento Kings’ 124-115 victory over the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 1.
Richaun Holmes had 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Kings snapped a two-game skid and improved to 3-3 under interim coach Alvin Gentry after a 6-11 start that led to Luke Walton’s firing last month.
Sacramento also bounced back solidly from a blowout loss at home to the Lakers one night earlier. The Kings blew a 14-point lead early in the third quarter of Tuesday’s defeat, prompting an intense film session before they faced a Clippers team without Paul George, Kawhi Leonard or Nicolas Batum.
“For most of the game, I thought we played to the level that we should, just from a competitive standpoint,” Gentry said. “They’re a good bunch of players, and I think they want to do the right thing. I just wanted to remind them that we have to do it on a consistent basis, but I thought the response was great.”
George sat out to rest, and Sacramento had little trouble with Los Angeles’ role players early on, jumping to a 20-point lead early in both halves and never trailing at Staples Center.
But five Clippers reserves led a 14-0 rally in the final minutes while the Kings still had four starters in the game, trimming Sacramento’s lead to eight points with 1:28 to play. Fox hit a clinching layup in the final minute.
“They were moving way faster than us, flying around, and we couldn’t keep up in that third quarter,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We did some good things, but defensively was where they hurt us more than anything. You come in with a game plan, and then you have to adjust. We did that, but they were playing well.”
George hadn’t sat all season, but in doing so, he left the Clippers without both cornerstones of the roster that reached the Western Conference finals last summer for the first time in franchise history. The Clippers have been struggling to stay above .500 in Leonard’s absence while riding on the shoulders of George, who scored at least 20 points in 17 of their first 21 games.
Leonard isn’t close to making his season debut after undergoing knee ligament surgery in July. Batum also missed his sixth straight game for the Clippers under the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Luke Kennard scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for the Clippers, who have lost seven of 10. Los Angeles fell back to 11-11 with its third straight loss, including back-to-back home defeats to struggling New Orleans and Sacramento.
“We just didn’t get on track defensively with what we wanted to do,” Kennard said. “It’s something we’ve got to fix right away, and I think we’ve got the guys in the locker room to do that, who are willing to trust in each other and make the changes we need to get more wins.”
Terance Mann also had 19 points for Los Angeles, and Ivica Zubac added 17 points and seven rebounds.
Rookie Davion Mitchell scored 20 points for Sacramento, just two shy of his career high, while Tyrese Haliburton had 12 points and 11 assists for the Kings in the California clubs’ first meeting of the season. They’ll have a rematch in Sacramento on Saturday.
“We let them see light and hit a couple of shots at the end,” said Mitchell, who made his first seven shots before his first miss in the final minute of the third quarter. “They got comfortable, and we started to turn the ball over. They made their run, but we did a good job of not letting them get close.”
Sacramento got off to a strong start with 13 points apiece in the first half from Mitchell and Chimezie Metu, a Los Angeles native who played at Lawndale High School before three seasons at Southern California. The Kings streaked to a 20-point lead early on, but the Clippers trimmed it to 62-52 at the half.
Kings: They’ve got two wins at Staples Center and three wins at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center this season. … Moe Harkless sat out with a knee injury despite being upgraded to questionable before the game. … Marvin Bagley remained sidelined by a non-COVID-19 illness. … Harrison Barnes missed his fourth straight game with a foot injury.
Clippers: Marcus Morris returned after a one-game rest absence. … Kennard converted a four-point play in the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles nearly played the entire first half without shooting a free throw, but Reggie Jackson finally got to the line 12.1 seconds before the break. The Clippers didn’t consistently get to the line until the fourth quarter, when they earned 10 of their 16 free throws.
Kings: Host Clippers on Saturday night.
Clippers: At Lakers on Friday night.
By Greg Beacham