Dave Joerger had seen enough.
After the Los Angeles Clippers built a 26-point lead in the first half against the Kings’ power lineup, he started the third quarter with a smaller, quicker unit.
In went Darren Collison, joining Ty Lawson in a dual point guard backcourt. Guard Arron Afflalo slid to small forward, Rudy Gay to power forward and DeMarcus Cousins to center. Kosta Koufos, who’d started at center, did not play in the second half.
And following the Clippers’ 121-115 victory Friday night at Golden 1 Center, Joerger said he’d be using small lineups more. The Kings have lost four consecutive games, so he’s looking for something to shake the team out of its struggles.
“I’ve seen enough,” Joerger said. “We’re going to play small. DeMarcus is going to play center. I don’t know who else will play with him. It just gives us more zip, more life, more experience. That’s not any detriment to anyone else or what they’ve done.”
The only version of a small lineup the Kings have started was against Miami, with small forward Matt Barnes in place of Koufos because the Heat use four smaller players around center Hassan Whiteside.
Now Joerger will have to sort out which players fit best around Cousins.
The Clippers came out hot, scoring 40 points in the first quarter and leading 73-54 at halftime.
The Kings pulled within 117-115 with 2:04 to play but would get no closer. It’s tough to overcome falling behind big to one of the best teams in the NBA, especially when the Clippers shoot 52.6 percent.
“I don’t think we’re coming out with urgency,” Cousins said. “Once again we’re waiting until the last minute to play with energy, with a sense of urgency, play with some pride, play with some heart. It’s all fun, it’s exciting in the end, you feel like we’re playing great and making the right steps but these games are only going to continue to get harder for us if we wait until the last quarter or second half to try to make a push.”
For the second consecutive game, the final score did not indicate how dominant the winning team was most of the night.
Forward Blake Griffin led the Clippers (11-2) with 29 points. He also had seven rebounds and six assists. Guard J.J. Redick scored 22 of his 26 points in the first half, when the Kings were overwhelmed.
Point guard Chris Paul had 11 points and 12 assists. Center DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
The Kings (4-9), however, could use the second half as a way to start turning around their season. The Kings had more energy after the lineup change.
“We have five skill guys then,” Joerger said. “You can’t cheat, you can’t roam, you have to play everybody. It gave us another dimension in the pick-and-roll, having two playmakers out there.”
The change certainly helped Lawson, who had a season-high 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with eight assists and seven rebounds. Lawson has looked out of sorts lately. He’s accustomed to playing at a fast pace, but that’s not feasible when the Kings start two centers.
“It’s easier to get in the paint when two bigs are not there,” Collison said.
Collison scored 16 points off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting. Barnes had 15 points and seven rebounds playing 30 minutes as a reserve.
Cousins led all scorers with 38 points. He also had 13 rebounds and seven assists.