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New starters spark Kings but Clippers best at the finish

Rudy Gay reflects on Kings' 106-98 loss to Clippers

Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings forward talks about pass from teammate DeMarcus Cousins in the final seconds of Kings 106-98 loss on Friday, January 6, 2017 at Golden 1 Center.
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Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings forward talks about pass from teammate DeMarcus Cousins in the final seconds of Kings 106-98 loss on Friday, January 6, 2017 at Golden 1 Center.

If anything came out of Friday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Kings might be closer to figuring out their starting lineup.

Sacramento started smaller, came out quicker, but didn’t have enough to finish in a 106-98 loss to the Clippers at Golden 1 Center, their second consecutive defeat.

The Kings have experimented with lineups and tried to get more than a sub-par effort from their starting shooting guard.

The solution Friday was to start two point guards, Ty Lawson and Darren Collison. The frontcourt was downsized, too.

Rudy Gay returned from his strained hip flexor and started at forward with Matt Barnes, and DeMarcus Cousins moved back to center.

The Kings led by 14 in the first quarter, but was outscored 34-12 in the second. They regrouped after halftime the Clippers came up with the key plays late, most notably a steal by Chris Paul with 22.7 seconds to play on a Cousins pass to Gay with the Kings down 100-98.

“The ball was in (Cousins’) hands; we trust him to make decisions,” Gay said. “There were a lot of people in the paint. I’d rather him shoot it to be honest with you, but it is what it is. We trust him to make the right play and usually he does.”

Paul made two free throws after his steal to put the game out of reach.

“There’s no such thing as moral victories,” Collison said. “We have to be able to execute in the last three minutes. You’re not going to beat teams like the Clippers if we take bad shots in the last three minutes.”

The Kings had two turnovers in the final three minutes with only one made field goal.

Collison said getting better shots late will come from practice, something the Kings haven’t had much of lately due to their hectic travel schedule to start the season.

“We’ve got to to get better in practice,” Collison said. “Coach (Dave Joerger) is definitely putting us in position to succeed. So we’ve got to focus in practice and have the willingness to execute that play over and over, even if we’ve got to do it 100 times. Sometimes we lose focus or don’t see the importance that practice can carry over into the games.”

That execution might be aided if Joerger sticks with the same starting lineup and the group gets more work together.

Joerger had preferred to start Kosta Koufos at center and save Cousins some of the defensive responsibilities that come from that role. Joerger said he liked the ball movement from the new starting lineup and the spacing it created for the guards.

“Did we do it for a matchup, do it forever or do it for a while?” Joerger said. “It’s one of those things we’ll see how it goes going forward. I think Kosta is the most professional guy we’ve got in our locker room. He’s low maintenance. It wasn’t his fault we were getting off to slow starts or anybody’s. It was just as a group.”

Cousins led the Kings (15-21) with 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. He also had four of Sacramento’s seven turnovers. Collison had 20 points and Gay added 18 points. Lawson had 17 points.

Austin Rivers led the Clippers (25-14) with 24 points. DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and J.J. Redick had 19 points. Paul finished with 14 points, 12 assists and three steals.

Chris Paul had 14 points and 12 assists and forced a key turnover late as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Kings 106-98 Friday night at Golden 1 Center for their third straight victory. Paul had missed the previous eight games because of a hamstr

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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