Clippers look to continue mastery of Kings
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Clippers figure to arrive in Sacramento flying high after finally solving a team that had owned them since Christmas 2014.
Now, they'll try to maintain the momentum by beating up again on a team they've had little trouble figuring out.
The Clippers (19-21), fresh off a 125-106 road victory over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, play the Kings (13-27) on Thursday night at the Golden 1 Center. The game will be the first of a home-and-home series with the rematch at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday.
The win over Golden State ended a 12-game Los Angeles losing streak to the Warriors and provided an unexpected lift at a time when the Clippers are struggling to field a healthy team. They have played large portions of their season without Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverly and Danillo Gallinari. Austin Rivers has missed two straight weeks, and Milos Teodosic (plantar fasciitis) three straight contests.
Despite that, the Clippers have stabilized after a 6-16 stretch and are only a game out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Their two Williamses have been a big reason why.
Lou Williams sparked the win over the Warriors with a career-high 50 points, including the final 18 of the third quarter. He has averaged 34 points and 6.3 assists in his past six, while shooting 49.2 percent overall and 47.3 percent from 3-point range.
C.J. Williams scored 12 against Golden State and has averaged 11 during the Clippers' past three. Williams' future with Los Angeles is in question, because he's signed to a two-way contract that ends Saturday.
They have the option of signing him to a new deal.
"It's one of those things where I've had the confidence in myself a long time," C.J. Williams told the Los Angeles Times. "I felt I belonged in the NBA and now I'm getting the opportunity. I just want to take advantage of it."
The Kings reach the halfway point of the season near the bottom of the Western Conference, as expected. They are 2-5 in their past seven home contests, their only victories in a stretch that has seen them play 10 straight games in California. That streak will end Saturday.
Coach Dave Joerger told reporters before a 99-86 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday that he wanted to see his team play with a faster pace. They responded by committing 16 turnovers against the Lakers and shooting 34.5 percent from the floor.
The Kings are 27th among 30 NBA teams in pace (103.91), which measures possessions per game, and are last in scoring at 97.4 per contest.
"We really try to pick up our stuff in practice, so the game almost feels a little slower," Joerger told reporters. "And try to make them play, fast, fast, fast and make mistakes and that's OK, because we learn from them."
Center Willie Cauley-Stein is averaging 15.6 points and 7.8 rebounds over his past 10 contests for Sacramento and rookie guard De'Aaron Fox has averaged 15.3 points and 6.0 assists in four games since returning from a partially torn right quadriceps muscle.
Los Angeles has won eight of the last 10 meetings.