Both the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings sought out Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo for their championship pedigrees, and each has delivered early for his new team.
The two former Boston Celtics teammates face off again for the second time in four days Saturday night when the Clippers host the Kings.
Pierce lived up to his legacy as an unflappable clutch performer by scoring eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s Clippers’ debut. The last two came on a tie-breaking jumper over Rondo with 2:21 remaining that sparked an 11-4 run and lifted Los Angeles to a 111-104 season-opening triumph at Sacramento.
The Clippers bounced back after blowing a 15-point advantage early in the fourth quarter and had no such issues in Thursday’s home opener against Dallas, building a lead as large as 28 en route to a 104-88 victory.
Blake Griffin had 26 points and 10 rebounds after scoring 33 points on 14-of-20 shooting against Sacramento. DeAndre Jordan grabbed 15 rebounds with four blocks in his first encounter with the Mavericks since spurning the team to re-sign with Los Angeles over the summer, a decision that clearly led to a testy atmosphere.
”It’s definitely an emotional game,” said Jordan, who posted eight points and 12 rebounds against Sacramento. ”The emotions were high obviously because it was our home opener. We wanted to give the fans what they missed.”
The Clippers now aim for their first 3-0 start since winning the first four games of 2007-08 as they resume a series they’ve dominated of late. Los Angeles is 17-3 against Sacramento since 2010-11 and the Kings have dropped eight of nine at Staples Center, with the lone win a 98-92 decision on Nov. 2, 2014 behind DeMarcus Cousins’ 34 points and 17 rebounds.
Cousins tallied 32 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday but committed eight of the Kings’ 18 turnovers. Rondo, signed to a one-year contract in July, had just four points in the opener but bounced back in strong fashion in Friday’s 132-114 home rout of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rondo put up 21 points in 24 minutes in directing a Sacramento offense that shot 51.5 percent and generated 80 points in the paint. The veteran point guard finished 9 of 13 from the field and added eight assists.
”I wanted to come out aggressive, a lot more than I did last game,” he said.
Cousins chipped in 21 points with 11 rebounds and rookie center Willie Cauley-Stein delivered 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in his first NBA start.
”I played super loose and had my mind free,” Cauley-Stein said. ”We shared the ball and had a lot of fun out there.”
Cauley-Stein, known more for his defensive exploits during his three seasons at Kentucky, played just eight minutes Wednesday in a game the Clippers shot 52.5 percent.
The Kings, 11-30 as the visitor last season, will play their first road game on a schedule in which they’ll host nine of their first 11 contests.