The Clippers don’t exactly have a rivalry with the Sacramento Kings, but they’re getting close.
The two teams play for the third time this season, and the second time in seven nights, when they meet tonight at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Throw in two preseason meetings and that makes it five head-to-head games in six weeks.
But it’s not the frequency of the games; it’s the contentious nature of them.
Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins and Clippers forward Blake Griffin aren’t exactly BFFs, and every game between them usually includes a few glares and a tangled rebound or two.
Sacramento is last in the NBA’s Pacific Division, but their last game was decided by one point when Cousins missed a jump shot at the buzzer Saturday night at Staples Center.
“It’s going to be a hard game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We’re coming off Thanksgiving, they’re coming off Thanksgiving. It may be a battle of who eats the least.”
The Clippers are 2-0 this season against the Kings and have won three in a row since last season. Here are three things to watch tonight:
1. Chris Paul’s hammy: A strained right hamstring forced the Clippers point guard to miss the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 93-80 win over the New York Knicks. Paul said after the game he was OK and would play tonight, but Rivers sounded less certain. The main concern has to be the risk of making the injury worse. If Rivers take a cautious route and keeps Paul grounded, Darren Collison will get his first start of the season. 2. Handshake, anyone?: The moments after the game ends could be interesting. When they last met, Cousins pulled teammate Isaiah Thomas by the jersey so he couldn’t shake Paul’s hand. Paul, speaking about Cousins, told Prime Ticket, “He’s a young man. … He needs some guidance. It is what it is.” Will handshakes be exchanged this time or will Cousins intervene again? 3. New King on the court: The Kings traded former UCLA forward Luc Mbah a Moute to Minnesota this week for Derrick Williams, who never quite fit in with the Timberwolves. Mbah a Moute did a good job defensively on Paul last week, but it’s uncertain how soon Williams will find an appropriate role. He will probably start tonight, but his ability to defend could be key against the Clippers.