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Kings’ Playoff Hopes Take a Hit in Loss to Clippers

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Arguably the most important NBA game in Sacramento in over 12 years, the 9th place Kings hosted the Los Angeles Clippers, owners of the 8th and final seed in the Western Conference, two games above Sacramento. With a decent amount of games remaining, a Kings loss wouldn’t be the end of the world, but would make their road to the Playoffs significantly more difficult. The Clippers, one of the few teams that have dominated Sacramento this season, continued their success despite quiet nights from their two top players, defeating the Kings 116-109 to sweep the season series.

“That’s a tough game for us” said head coach Dave Joerger, “Tough team for us to play. Tough matchup for us all year. They got us with the loose balls and offensive rebounds. They just made more plays”.

Los Angeles scored 16 second chance points on 16 offensive rebounds, and held the normally prolific scoring Kings to just 28% from three-point range. All five Clippers starters finished in double figures scoring, including 20 points from Landry Shamet. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, who have killed the Kings in the past, had a relatively quiet night off the bench, combining for 32 points.

“In close games or playoff atmosphere games every little thing matters,” said Joerger, “That attack mindset on both sides of the floor was just a bit too late”.

“They just play together. They trust each other. They are a good team. They just got us four times (this season). Hats off to them,” said Harry Giles.

Buddy Hield once again led the Kings in scoring with 23 points, but didn’t get much help from his fellow starting guards who combined for an inefficient eight of 24 (33%) from the field. De’Aaron Fox (12 points, 12 assists) and Willie Cauley-Stein (16 points, 12 rebounds) both finished with double-doubles.

“Every game is a playoff game. This is our playoffs right here – our playoff to the playoffs. That’s the mentality we gotta have,” said Cauley-Stein.

The Kings are now a full three games back of the Clippers, who move a half game above the San Antonio Spurs in the 7th seed. Sacramento looks forward to eight straight meetings with Eastern Conference opponents, including two games against the New York Knicks and two against the Boston Celtics.

“20 games left. We are getting into the best of our best,” said Cauley-Stein, “We all are figuring out how to finish games…we are talking about it…it’s only a matter of time until it starts happening”.