It’s easy to point out the obvious. The Los Angeles Clippers were down two starters and the Kings had all their regulars healthy and available.
But the Kings have shown this season that doesn’t matter because they can be beat by shorthanded teams when they appear to have a clear advantage.
But the Clippers weren’t the usual team down two starters. They’d won 10 in a row, nine without All-Star forward Blake Griffin. The Kings ended that winning streak with a balanced attack in a 110-103 victory Saturday night at Staples Center.
The Kings knew they’d have an advantage inside without Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan, but rather than assume they’d win easily, overcame a slow start, played solid defense and earned the win.
Saturday was the second game Jordan missed recovering from pneumonia. Griffin is recovering from a partially torn left quadriceps tendon
“We’ve played against teams where they had their key players out and we kind of dropped the ball,” said guard Darren Collison. “.... We didn’t want to overlook anybody.”
It helped keep the Kings focused knowing the Clippers were hot and playing at home. And without their two big men, DeMarcus Cousins looked to facilitate more, knowing Los Angeles would focus on him to make up for not having Jordan or Griffin to challenge him one-on-one defensively.
Cousins had 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
“You have to take advantage,” Cousins said. “But even with that being said, they are still a very good team. I think they played a (great) game considering their situation. We made some mistakes in the end but we pulled it out.”
Cousins’ patience on offense allowed him to find open shooters and get other players going. Rudy Gay had 18 points and seven rebounds.
Collison and Omri Casspi each had 17 points off the bench. Rajon Rondo had 13 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
“We wanted to take advantage of (no Jordan or Griffin) and get the ball into the paint,” Rondo said. “(Cousins) was able to find guys on the perimeter. He did a great job of passing the ball. We did a great job of passing the ball as a team and we got the win.”
After falling behind 17-9 to start the game, the Kings settled in defensively. Even though J.J. Redick was able to score 22 points and Jamal Crawford had 20 points off the bench, the Kings’ balance overcame that.
It also helped that All-Star guard Chris Paul (15 points, seven assists) was in foul trouble for long stretches.
“We got big contributions in a balanced way,” said Kings coach George Karl. “Cousins was good, he passed the ball very well and made good decisions. We got the three-ball because we shared the ball very well.”
The Clippers tried to use small lineups to make up for not having Griffin and Jordan, but the Kings (17-23) were able to handle that.
Karl credited Gay and Casspi for he playing well together. And after saying last Wednesday he needed the Kings to play smarter, Karl saw more heady play against the Clippers, call it “One our better team wins and one of our better defensive wins of the year.”
“I thought we played a very intelligent game on offense and there’s a creativity to this roster where if we stay healthy I think we’ll get better at winning in different ways,” Karl said.
The Kings shot 52 percent (13-for-25) on three pointers and 47.4 percent or the game while holding the Clippers to 39.6 percent shooting.
Rondo had his eighth consecutive game with at least 10 assists. It’s the longest streak in Sacramento-era history. Reggie Theus (1985-86) had the record with seven, which Rondo also tied earlier this season.