Clippers and Kings desperately trying to reverse course on nosediving seasons
The Kings are currently coached by the rare interim-for-the-interim after Alvin Gentry, who stepped in last month to replace the fired Luke Walton, entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols related to COVID-19. An outbreak sidelined six players in a Monday loss, including starting guard De’Aaron Fox. And a seventh was added Tuesday morning.
Then there is the basketball. At 13-19, the Kings own just two victories in their last seven games. Only seven teams have allowed more points than they’ve scored at home this season; the Kings are one of them.
The Clippers lose third straight game with a 116-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday at Staples Center.
The 16-14 Clippers, comparatively, have the full complement of their coaching staff. Paul George returned to their lineup Monday after a sprained elbow ligament sidelined him for two weeks. Only starting forward Marcus Morris Sr. is in the protocols. But none of it means they enter Wednesday’s game in Sacramento in a happy place, either.
The Clippers’ loss Monday against San Antonio was dubbed “embarrassing,” by center Ivica Zubac, “ugly” by coach Tyronn Lue and “lethargic” by George. It was also historic, with the Spurs becoming only the third team since 1994 to finish with at least 114 shots and 23 offensive rebounds in a non-overtime game.
“You are going to lose games, that’s part of the NBA,” Lue said. “It is just the way you play is just a little disappointing thing. Like [Saturday’s Oklahoma City] game, we fought, we scrapped, we didn’t have our three top scorers. But like Utah [on Dec. 15], same thing, we fought, we scrapped, and they were able to win that game. But tonight, I didn’t think we fought, we scrapped. I just thought it was too easy for these guys.”
If it had been an exceptionally poor outlier, perhaps the postgame reviews would not have been so laced with frustration. But the Clippers’ struggles to rebound and score in transition are nothing new — and neither was the tone and aim of some of their postgame self-criticisms that directed the blame on their own effort.
“Our urgency [has] got to be better,” Zubac said. “We’ve got to know we can’t just come into the game and think we‘re going to win. We’re not that talented, especially with some guys missing, so we‘ve got to play hard, we‘ve got to bring it every night and that’s the only way we’re going to have a chance to win it.”
Zubac wasn’t done.
“We didn’t try hard tonight. That’s what we were missing. It’s just from start to finish, no effort, no urgency and couldn’t secure rebounds and it was just on and on and on.”
The Clippers on Tuesday signed center Moses Wright from their G League affiliate to a 10-day contract via the league’s hardship exception to bolster their rotation because of an ankle injury to backup center Isaiah Hartenstein. Serge Ibaka assumed Hartenstein’s reserve role in his first game since Dec. 6, finishing with eight rebounds. But Lue didn’t pin the Spurs’ 24-rebound advantage solely on his big men.
“If you have seen the last four or five games, it’s been the guards sneaking in and getting offensive rebounds and we are not being physical enough to take them off that,” Lue said. “We‘ve got to be better.”
Of the 71 offensive rebounds allowed by the Clippers in their last five games, guards have grabbed 33 of them.
“You give a team 30 more shots than us, I mean, you’re not going to win that game,” George said. “It is just deflating when we can’t rebound.”
And it has become equally as dispiriting when the Clippers do grab a defensive rebound but can’t generate points from it. They currently are scoring 103.5 points per 100 transition possessions that come off of a live-ball rebound, the NBA’s second-worst mark, according to the statistics site Cleaning the Glass.
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Starting guard Reggie Jackson left Monday’s game with 20 minutes still to play and wasn’t reinserted because Lue is trying to manage his minutes after Jackson was kneed in a thigh one week earlier against Phoenix. Jackson has made 33% of his shots and 31% of his three-pointers in three games since and has appeared to labor while running up and down the court.
“Sometimes he looks good, sometimes he’s limping, I don’t know, I can’t get a gauge” on his condition, Lue said. “I know it’s bothering him. “It was like he was laboring a little [Monday] so I just got him out.”
Up next for the Clippers
Wednesday at Sacramento
When: 7 p.m.
On the air: TV: Bally Sports, NBATV; Radio: 570, 1330
Update: The Kings have won the first two games of their four-game season series with the Clippers, and a win Wednesday would mark the first time since 2010 that Sacramento has won two home games against the Clippers in the same season.
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