The Sacramento Kings roared back from a 20-point first-half deficit Saturday afternoon at the Staples Center, but the comeback fell just short in a 103-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Sacramento (4-8) had its modest two-game winning streak snapped. The Kings batteld all the way back and had a five-point lead, 94-89, with 2:43 remaining, but DeMarcus Cousins—who had one of his best all-around games as a pro—helped pave the way for a Clipper comeback with an ill-timed technical foul.
Cousins was called for a loose ball foul on Blake Griffin, who himself had gotten T’d up just moments earlier, and was hit with a technical in his protest of the play.
J.J. Redick sank the technical shot and Griffin when made both of his free throws to cut Sacramento’s lead to 94-92.
Patrick Patterson made a pair of free throws for the Kings before Jared Dudley drained a 3-pointer to bring the Clips back to within 96-95.
Luc Mbah a Moute’s layup off a feed from Cousins put Sacramento up three before Chris Paul … did what Chris Paul does.
He made a ridiculous fadeaway 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring tie the game at 98-98 and then gave Los Angeles the lead with 1:04 left on a drive and a layup. Paul was fouled by Mbah a Moute on the play, but the All-Star point guard missed the free throw to leave L.A.’s lead at two, 100-98. Paul came into the game hitting 94.8 percent from the foul line (73-for-77) but was just 5-for-8 on Saturday.
Isaiah Thomas tied the game with a pair of free throws, but his size disadvantage at the other end was leaving the Clippers free to pick and roll the Kings to death, which they did to the tune of Paul finding a rolling Griffin for a dunk and a 102-100 lead with 44 seconds left.
Thomas made another two free throws with 24 seconds left and the Kings covered the pick and roll better on Los Angeles’ ensuing possession, but Patterson was called for a foul with just 2.4 seconds remaining. Paul hit the first and missed the second and the Kings used their final timeout to move the ball to midcourt.
Cousins got the inbounds pass, but fired up an airball over DeAndre Jordan with time running down and the Clippers (9-5) escaped with the win.
Cousins played 38 minutes and finished with 23 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists. Thomas had 22 points and five dimes off the bench and Patterson scored a season-high 21 points in 32 minutes of bench duty.
It was a chippy game between the Pacific Division rivals, with Travis Outlaw of the Kings drawing an ejection for a flagrant 2 foul on Redick with 8:06 left in the game.
Paul finished with 22 points and nine assists for the Clippers, while Jordan had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Griffin chipped in 16 points and 10 boards, Redick scored 15 points and Dudley tossed in 11.
The Clippers helped the Kings stay in the game with their poor foul shooting. Los Angeles was 26-for-45 (57.8 percent for the game), with Jordan going 5-for-14. Jordan is one of the league’s worst free-throw shooters and he is now at 41.6 percent for the season (32-for-77).
The Kings will stay in Los Angeles and return to Staples Center on Sunday night—this time with the championship banners and retired numbers uncovered—to play the Lakers. Tipoff is 6:30 p.m. Pacific.