In case you didn’t know, the Kings’ chances of winning diminish greatly when DeMarcus Cousins does not play.
Take away more key players, and it gets even tougher.
The Kings were reminded of that again Saturday night. With Cousins sidelined because of a sprained ankle, the Kings lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 117-108 at Sleep Train Arena.
Sacramento fell to 2-10 in games without Cousins this season. Overall, the Kings (16-24) have lost three in a row, and they finished 2-4 on their six-game homestand.
Losing Cousins, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, was the biggest blow. But he wasn’t the only one missing.
Carl Landry sat out his second consecutive game because of a sprained right wrist. Omri Casspi left after playing a minute when he was hit in the eye. And Ramon Sessions (back) hasn’t played in nearly a month.
That left the Kings trying to piece together a lineup to compete with the talented Clippers. Though they got help as Rudy Gay returned to action, it wasn’t enough as the Clippers (27-14) pulled away in the second half.
Derrick Williams started for Gay, and Ryan Hollins started for Cousins. It was the ninth different starting lineup the Kings have used this season and the third different starting group in the last three games.
Coming off a lackluster effort in Friday’s loss to the Miami Heat, the stripped-down version of the Kings played with more urgency but still had too many turnovers (18 that led to 16 Clippers points).
And without Cousins to anchor the middle or Landry to help pick up the slack off the bench, Sacramento was outscored 54-44 in the paint.
The Kings, however, weren’t down on themselves after the loss.
“I can’t be any more happy about our effort,” Darren Collison said. “We had a lot of guys who couldn’t play this game due to injuries, but we had a lot of guys who stepped up. If we play with that same effort, we’re going to be all right.
“That’s Kings basketball right there – leave it out there on the floor. Regardless of who we’re playing, just play hard.”
Gay, who missed a game because of a sprained left knee, came off the bench for the first time since Feb. 1, 2013, his first game with the Toronto Raptors after being traded from the Memphis Grizzlies. That game also was against the Clippers, and Gay scored 20 points in a 98-73 win.
Saturday, Gay played 34 minutes and scored 22 points. He figures to be back in the starting lineup Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers if his knee is OK.
Gay’s return surprised some of his teammates.
“I kept asking him, ‘Are you really playing?’ ” Collison said. “And he was like, ‘Yeah.’ I thought he was joking, so I kept asking him, ‘Are you really playing?’ And he got in the game, and he played well.”
Coach Tyrone Corbin said Gay’s playing status was a game-time decision.
“I was happy to see him getting himself ready to go, and I was glad he was able to come into the game,” Corbin said.
“I thought he played a good game for us and gave us a huge lift as soon as he came in.”
Four other Kings scored in double figures. Jason Thompson had 23 points to go with a career-high 22 rebounds, Collison scored 17 points, Ben McLemore had 14 points, and Williams supplied 13 points. But Sacramento couldn’t handle Blake Griffin, who had a game-high 30 points.
The small forward spot for the Clippers has been maligned all season, but former King Matt Barnes (Del Campo High School) came through with season highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds. Chris Paul finished with 12 points and nine assists.
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