Embrace the difficult. Embrace what is not easy. Embrace the challenge.
The Clippers stared down all of that in one game and then stood firm in pulling out a 116-109 victory over a stubborn Sacramento Kings team Friday night at Golden 1 Center before 17,583 fans.
It took seven Clippers scoring in double figures to complete a season sweep of the Kings. It took the Clippers collecting a season-high 58 rebounds to keep the Kings at bay.
“They played the game like they were going to win the game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Every time out they were yelling, ‘Win!’ I thought that was on their mind. They didn’t know how we were going to win, but they wanted to win and we played like that.”
The Clippers rode the wave of two rookies, Landry Shamet (team-high 20 points) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (15 points), and a newcomer, Ivica Zubac (10 points, 10 rebounds) to return home with a split in the two-game trip.
The Clippers never worried when Lou Williams started the game struggling, scoring four points in the first half, going one for five from the field, 0 for 3 from three-point range and two for six from the free-throw line.
Williams struck in the all-important fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 17 points. He was four for eight from the field in the fourth.
And when it was over, the Clippers had sole possession of moved the seventh seed in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs and three ahead of the ninth-seeded Kings.
“We knew they were going to be a real good team and play hard and have a lot of energy and play fast,” said Shamet, who was six for 12 from the field, five for 10 from three-point range. “We know they are not going to roll over. They are right behind us in the playoff race and they want it just as bad as we do. So it’s just a matter of what are we going to do differently to kind of put us over the edge and edge them out.”
When the Clippers saw their 13-point lead in the fourth quarter sliced to 110-107 with one minute and 16 seconds left, they did not falter, knowing this was the time to embrace the difficult and accept the challenge.
Williams scored on a 19-foot jumper.
De’Aaron Fox answered for the Kings, cutting the Clippers’ lead back to 112-109.
Unable to score on offense, the Clippers had to get a big defensive stop to secure the game.
And they got it when Gallinari took big-time charge on Harrison Barnes with 9.2 seconds left and the Clippers leading by those precious three points.
“Those are the plays that we need to have to win games,” said Gallinari, who added 19 points and nine rebounds to help the Clippers’ cause.
“At the end of games, it’s a possession game and you need to have those plays and I saw Harrison coming full speed. I knew he was trying to get to the Euro-step, trying to the middle so I beat him to the spot.