These days, the exciting, fast-paced, winning brand of basketball in Southern California is played by the Los Angeles Clippers.
And the Kings watched that up close Saturday afternoon, which was a big problem.
There was too much watching by the Kings as the Clippers scored too easily and too often in handing Sacramento its fifth consecutive defeat, 117-101, at Staples Center.
The Clippers scored 25 fast-break points, totaled 54 points in the paint and shot 9 of 19 on three-pointers.
Los Angeles shot 50.6 percent for the game. The Kings are 0-17 when allowing opponents to shoot 50 percent or better.
Kings coach Michael Malone said he “hated” his team’s defense.
“After made baskets for us, they’d go coast to coast and get a layup,” Malone said. “We wouldn’t get back; we wouldn’t stop the ball. We got beat off the dribble to the middle time and time again. ... I thought we played hard, but I didn’t think we played smart.”
Chris Paul weaved his way through the Kings for 17 points and 10 assists. Blake Griffin had 27 points and nine assists.
“What broke down is us,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said. “I think we could have done a better job communicating, which we didn’t do. Just a lot of small things turned into big things. Being this late in the season, we’ve got to do a better job than what we did.”
The Kings, however, still had a chance to win.
Sparked by the ejection of Ben McLemore after he picked up his second technical foul from referee Joey Crawford, the Kings pulled within 91-89 with 8:55 to play. The Clippers responded with a 12-3 run to put the game out of reach.
“They turned it up,” Kings forward Rudy Gay said. “That’s why they are a playoff team and we are not. That’s why they are a contender and we are not.”
Malone also said the
Clippers (56-24) showed the mettle of a playoff team in the fourth quarter. The Kings (27-53) showed why they continue to be near the bottom of the Western Conference.
“They stepped it up and we didn’t respond,” Malone said. “That’s going to be part of our process. When it gets tight in fourth quarters, can you execute? Can you handle the pressure? Or are you going to allow them to take you out of everything.”
The most surprising part of the fourth quarter was McLemore’s ejection. The soft-spoken rookie hadn’t been called for a technical foul this season before being called for one in the third quarter and a second in the fourth.
Crawford called the first when McLemore tried to stop Griffin from scoring on a play Griffin was called for traveling. Crawford called the second and ejected McLemore after the rookie pushed J.J. Redick during a play.
“I thought I was trying to free myself to get him off me,” McLemore said. “Being the shooter that I am, I was just trying to create for myself. ... (Crawford) assumed I did something else.”
McLemore said he didn’t remember the first technical foul. He was still trying to understand why he was called for the second.
“That’s the crazy thing about it,” McLemore said. “I’ve never gotten kicked out of a game in my life.”
Malone was not happy about the ejection during the game. Afterward, he didn’t have much to say.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Malone said. “They made a decision, they gave him the tech, he got thrown out, and it is what it is.”
Cousins led the Kings with 32 points on 12-for-27 shooting to go with 12 rebounds. Reggie Evans had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Gay had 16 points on 6-for-18 shooting after a two-game absence caused by a lower back strain.