Kings of the road — lately — visit Clippers
LOS ANGELES — For a pair of teams going through trying seasons, it is good to be home for the holidays.
When the Sacramento Kings face off against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Tuesday, both will be in a California state of mind.
Sacramento will be playing its second of 11 consecutive games in its home state following a 108-99 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday. The Kings (11-21) seemed to be turning a corner after a 2-2 road trip to Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.
Los Angeles (13-19) hopes that home cooking and familiar surroundings can help it heal. The Clippers will play their next 12 games in California, with the first seven at Staples Center.
Injury-plagued Los Angeles also has been a more cohesive unit of late despite constantly changing lineups that foiled on-court chemistry.
The Clippers have played six of their last seven away from home, winning three times in that stretch. One of those victories was over the high-flying Rockets on Friday in Houston. Then one day later, up-and-down Los Angeles fell to the struggling Memphis Grizzlies.
“It’s still the NBA; the world don’t stop because you beat the Rockets,” Clippers high-scoring reserve guard Lou Williams told the Los Angeles Times.
The Kings defeated the defending champion Golden State Warriors on the road a month ago, and recently won road games at Philadelphia and Brooklyn.
After losing nine straight road contests early in the season, Sacramento is 5-4 away from home since the Golden State victory Nov. 27. Led by veterans Zach Randolph and George Hill, the Kings have unity that was missing earlier in the year.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” coach Dave Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. “I just told them how much they’ve all improved in the last four weeks through the video, through the work we’re doing on the court. We’re miles and miles ahead of where we were four weeks ago and that’s the most important thing.”
Kings rookie guard De’Aaron Fox will be out another two weeks following a quadriceps injury. Reserve guard Vince Carter missed Saturday’s game with a rib injury and his status for Tuesday remains unknown.
Los Angeles knows that Blake Griffin (knee), Danilo Gallinari (glute) and Patrick Beverley (knee) all will be out Tuesday. Wes Johnson (foot) has been out since Dec. 18.
Williams and Austin Rivers have been leading the Clippers’ offense of late from the backcourt. The defense was improving before the Rockets and Grizzles combined for 233 points on back-to-back nights.
“Offensively we were fine, but emotionally on defense, we weren’t communicating, like we just weren’t into it,” Rivers told the Los Angeles Times after Saturday’s defeat. “They got too many easy buckets and it cost us down the stretch. We all most had a hell of a comeback there. But I felt like if we would have played the defense like we’re normally capable of, we would have won that game.”
It points to a return of the Clippers’ hard-nose defense at home Tuesday against a Kings team that has one of the more slower-tempo offenses in the league.