Here are five takeaways from the Clippers’ 98-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday at Staples Center:
1. Clippers fans have to hope their real team has yet to stand up. The Clippers have played three games against either bad or severely undermanned teams and are 2-1. Something’s not quite adding up. “Luckily,” point guard Chris Paul said, “we’ve got 79 more chances to get better.” The Clippers have struggled to sustain solid play for more than a few minutes at a time and have been unable to transform double-digit leads into blowouts. “I think it’s a mental thing,” Blake Griffin said. “We talk about locking in and really extending leads. It’s something you have to consciously do and consciously be aware of. I think most of our work on that front needs to be up here [in the head].”
2. Rebounding looks like it will be a season-long issue. The Clippers were outrebounded in all eight preseason games and nothing has changed in the regular season. The Kings outrebounded them, 46-35, with top Clippers rebounder DeAndre Jordan getting nine rebounds and Griffin getting eight. It wasn’t enough.
3. Griffin and Jordan are still talking back to the referees too much. They repeatedly complain about non-calls and stare down officials for longer than a few seconds at a time, failing to live up to Coach Doc Rivers’ mantra of playing through things that don’t go your way. Jordan picked up a technical foul in the fourth quarter that helped the Kings extend their lead to four points and changed the complexion of the game. “The technical D.J. got, we can’t get,” Rivers said. “Those are bad technicals.” They’re going to get more until Griffin and Jordan start keeping their frustrations to themselves.
4. The second unit was about the only positive Sunday. The starters had a largely lackluster showing in the first quarter before the reserves entered and sparked a second-quarter run in which the Clippers outscored the Kings, 32-20. Spencer Hawes finished with 17 points, Jordan Farmar had 10 and Hedo Turkoglu made all three of his shots. That the bench outscored its Kings counterparts, 36-18, without Jamal Crawford (bruised ribs) made its performance all the more impressive. “Our bench played great tonight,” Rivers said. “They got the lead for us. In a sick way, I’m a little happier tonight than I was the first two games that we won.”
5. J.J. Redick will start making three-pointers at some point … right? The coach’s cliche about thinking every time the ball leaves his hands it’s going to go in the basket certainly applies to Redick, a career 38.8% three-point shooter. But he has made only four of 23 three-point shots this season, a not-so-robust 17.4%. Perhaps being a new father and the corresponding interruption in sleep cycles is a factor here. Redick already acknowledged being crankier than normal, a reason for his getting three technical fouls and an ejection in the preseason.