Chris Paul turns it around at the end in Clippers’ 106-98, win over the Sacramento Kings
There was a dark period recently when the Clippers were mired in a six-game losing streak, when Coach Doc Rivers wondered if his group had lost “our will” as the defeats kept mounting while they waited for Chris Paul to return from his left hamstring injury.
Friday, the Clippers’ will was being tested because they were losing all but two points of a 14-point lead to a Sacramento Kings team that refused to fold in the tense fourth quarter.
But Paul overcame his own late-game mistake with the defensive play of the game that led to his game-icing free throws, pushing the Clippers past the Kings, 106-98, at Golden 1 Center.
Paul, who had missed the last four games with his hamstring issues, turned the ball over with 40.2 seconds left and the Clippers protecting a two-point lead.
Undaunted, Paul stole a pass from DeMarcus Cousins and then the Clippers’ All-Star guard made two free throws for a 102-98 lead with 22.7 seconds left.
He closed out the game making six consecutive free throws to help the Clippers win their third consecutive game, completing his night with 14 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes.
“I feel great. That’s a good thing. I don’t feel nothing,” said Paul, who now has 7,994 assists to pass Rod Strickland for 10th on the NBA’s all-time list. “I came out unscathed. I’m excited about Sunday.”
Of his turnover and steal, Paul added, “I lost it out of bounds, but I wasn’t worried. I got in there, collapsed on the defense, got a steal. Just get to the next play.”
The Clippers might have regained their winning ways, but what has not changed is their proclivity to earn technical fouls for what they consider a wrong.
DeAndre Jordan was called for a technical foul in the third quarter for complaining too vigorously when he thought he was pushed in the back while scoring a layup.
A few minutes later in the third, Cousins was called for a technical foul after he flung his arm soon after he was called for a foul while J.J. Redick shot a three-pointer.
It meant the Clippers and Kings had lived up to the “both teams are emotional” cred Rivers cited during his pregame media session.
And now Jordan and Cousins both have nine technical fouls, tied for the second-most in the NBA.
Still, Jordan finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, making nine of 10 shots, while Cousins had 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Austin Rivers had 24 points and Redick had 19 for the Clippers.
Overall, Paul had missed seven of his last eight games after he suffered a strained left hamstring against the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 22. Paul played about 30 minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 28, but had not played since.
The Clippers began to show signs of coming out of their funk with a win over Phoenix on Monday night and another over Memphis on Wednesday night.
And that was all Doc Rivers wanted to see from the Clippers after back-to-back blowout losses to Houston and Oklahoma City last week.
“I thought we lost our will a little bit. Not our will. That would be a bad word,” the coach said. “But you know, you do get down. You want to win those games. You’re not. You’re struggling.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner
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