The Kings and Los Angeles Clippers aren’t rivals in the sense of having a heated history based on past playoff series.
Yet many of their encounters in recent seasons have had a level of animosity that have made for some entertaining moments, especially between Kings star DeMarcus Cousins and Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
It always seems the mind games are at another level when the teams meet.
Kings coach Dave Joerger was not concerned that trash talk might go too far Friday night, when the Kings hosted the Clippers at Golden 1 Center.
“I have plenty of history with the Clippers,” Joerger said, referring to his time coaching against Los Angeles in the playoffs while with Memphis. “There were times when it got chippy, but also I think all of those guys on both teams have grown a lot and matured as players.”
Joerger said games against the Clippers are physical. That worked well in Memphis and it’s something the Kings need to get better at, as he would like Sacramento to be the aggressor every night.
“You try to limit the talking and keep the focus on the game,” Joerger said. “If it’s physical, then it’s physical. That would be great for us; we need to be more physical.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was asked about the Kings’ penchant for agitating teams before games.
“I don’t know if ‘agitation’ is he right word,” Rivers said. “That would mean both teams would be clever enough to do that, so I don’t give either team credit to do that, to be honest.
“Both teams are emotional, and I think that would be more what I would see. I think it’s good to play with emotion; it’s important to have it. You just can’t take it to a line where it affects your play or your team’s play.”
Notes – The Kings received a boost Friday with Rudy Gay returning to the starting lineup. Gay had missed 10 of the previous 11 games because of strained right hip flexor.
Gay last played Dec. 26 against Philadelphia. He scored 17 points before aggravating the injury in the fourth quarter. He had missed four games since then.
Gay is the Kings’ second-leading scorer, averaging 18.5 points entering Friday.
The Kings are 5-6 this season without Gay. He had 18 points and seven rebounds against the Clippers.
Paul returned to the lineup after missing eight games due to a strained hamstring. The Clippers have been without Griffin since Dec. 20 because of right knee surgery.
▪ Joerger made a move Friday night to address the Kings’ problems at starting shooting guard.
Joerger started both of his point guards, Ty Lawson and Darren Collison, and benched Ben McLemore, who had been starting at shooting guard.
Joerger also kept Matt Barnes in the starting lineup, even with Gay’s return, opting for a small lineup with Cousins moving back to starting center.
Kosta Koufos has started at center and Cousins at power forward for most of the season.
Joerger could have started Garrett Temple at shooting guard, but he prefers to keep Temple with the reserves.
Lawson has played well off the bench, often finishing games.