George Karl’s return to the NBA was a victorious one.
There’s no doubt the new Sacramento Kings coach took notes on how his counterparts are trying to slow down the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan has been sent to the line 54 times in his last two games heading into Saturday night’s home matchup against Karl’s Kings.
Karl was back on the sideline Friday for the first time since getting fired by Denver after winning Coach of the Year honors in 2012-13, guiding Sacramento (19-34) to a 109-101 home win over Boston. The Kings fell into an early 16-point deficit and overcame 24 turnovers – their second-highest total.
"We won a game where we didn’t play very well,” Karl said. ”We’ve got to get better and I’ve got to get back in the saddle and coach better, too. Rudy (Gay) and DeMarcus (Cousins) were very strong for us."
Cousins had 31 points and 15 rebounds for his West-leading 34th double-double and Gay scored 28.
The next assignment for Karl figures to be tougher even though Los Angeles (36-19) is without injured top scorer Blake Griffin, who averages 22.5 points.
The Clippers have won three straight without him, with Jordan totaling 72 points and 65 rebounds in that span. It marks the first time the center, who leads the NBA in rebounds (13.9 per game) and is second in blocks (2.3), has topped 20 points in three straight games.
The story in the last two has been how opposing coaches have sent the 40.8 percent foul shooter to the line by intentionally fouling him off the ball. Jordan made 12 of 26 attempts when Houston’s Kevin McHale tried the tactic in the Clippers’ 110-95 win Feb. 11, and was 10 of 28 on Thursday when the tactic was employed by San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich in a 119-115 win for Los Angeles.
”I’m big, I have feelings, too,” Jordan said jokingly before turning serious. ”I just hate that we can’t just run and play.”
His 54 attempts are the most by any player over a two-game span dating to 1963-64. The most over a three-game regular-season span since then is 67 by the Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal from Nov. 19-24, 1999.
"I was happy for him, like he struggled, he made a couple, missed a couple but I was more impressed with his composure," coach Doc Rivers said.
Jordan has totaled 12 points, 18 rebounds and eight fouls as these clubs have split two meetings this season, with Cousins missing Sacramento’s 117-108 home loss Jan. 17.
The Kings have outrebounded the Clippers by 31 in the season series. Sacramento leads the NBA in rebound margin at plus-4.5 after holding a 57-40 cushion Friday.
Sacramento point guard Darren Collison is doubtful after missing the last five games with a strained right hip flexor. Reggie Evans is out with a right knee contusion.
Ray McCallum started at point guard Friday and newcomer Andre Miller was his backup in his club debut after being acquired from Washington.
That could be an advantage for Chris Paul, who is averaging 19.3 points and 13.5 assists in this 3-1 stretch without Griffin. Reserve Jamal Crawford is averaging 22.3 points in the same span.
"Everybody’s had to step up," Paul said. "Blake is a guy that no one person on our team can replace."