An awakening on defense shook the Clippers out of their third-quarter slumber that saw them go down by 18 points. An offensive outburst by Lou Williams and Blake Griffin catapulted the Clippers into a 10-point lead.
When that margin finally was erased on a 10-0 Sacramento run capped by a three-pointer by the Kings’ Buddy Hield with 14.8 seconds left, the Clippers had to answer the call.
Griffin did, knocking down a jumper with 3.2 seconds left that helped the Clippers escape with a 97-95 victory only after Hield missed a wild shot to end the game at Golden 1 Center on Saturday night.
“It was just an iso [isolation] play,” Griffin said of the winning shot. “I tried to get in a little close. They clogged the paint up pretty well, so I just settled for a little fadeaway.”
Griffin had 12 of his season-high 33 points in the third quarter and Williams also had 12 of his 18 points in the third.Their teammates followed their lead, bringing energy and effort and assists as the Clippers finished their trip with a 2-3 record.
Austin Rivers (14 points, seven assists) provided some offense. Montrezl Harrell (eight points, five rebounds, two blocks) and Sam Dekker (four points, one block) provided the energy.
“I just liked our defense overall in the second half,” Clippers coach Doc River said. “That’s what won the game.”
Hield had 27 points for the Kings, making seven of nine three-pointers.
But the Clippers picked it up on the defensive end and that sparked a 29-6 run to open a 76-71 lead at the end of the third. They were back in the game and fully engaged, putting the pressure on the Kings.
Williams caught fire and pulled the Clippers along with him.
He drilled three consecutive three-pointers, waking up his teammates on the court and on the bench. He made four three-pointers in the third, the most by a Clipper in a quarter this season and tied for the most in a quarter in his career.
The Clippers had won nine straight games here, their longest road winning streak against the Kings in franchise history. But by the half, the Kings looked intent on stopping that streak.
They built a 15-point lead in the second quarter before settling into a 61-47 halftime lead.
The Clippers didn’t help themselves from the three-point line, going one for 14 from distance in the first half. Meanwhile, the Kings broke down the Clippers’ three-point defense in the first 24 minutes, making seven of 10 from beyond the arc.
“We were down 18 and we were able to make a couple of shots early on,” Williams said. “Then we were able to get steals. That’s how momentum works in this league. You have an opportunity to get some stops and get some scores and once you get that thing down to six or eight, you realize it’s a different basketball game.
“We were able to understand that. We were able to capitalize.”