Clippers' second-quarter collapse leads to Kings rout, 124-103

SabreenaMerchant

As the starting lineups were announced, there was some intrigue in Staples Center as to who would be in the Clippers' starting five with the roster fully healthy. 

Out came Patrick Beverley, then Landry Shamet, then Ivica Zubac, and then... Moe Harkless? 

Paul George returned from a 9-game injury absence, but with one of their stars back, the Clippers unexpectedly were without Kawhi Leonard. Leonard participated in warmups, donning a 24 shooting shirt in honor of the late Kobe Bryant, but was a late scratch due to lower back tightness. Doc Rivers said he was ruled out about five seconds before tip, as his back tightened up all of a sudden. 

In a sense, it should have been clear from the start that something was off for the Clippers. What resulted was one of the team's most bizarre losses of the season. 

After a strong opening period, L.A. lost its footing in the second quarter and never recovered, falling to Sacramento 124-103. 

The Kings sit in 13th place in the Western Conference at 17-30, and were coming into Los Angeles on the second night of a back-to-back after being blown out by Oklahoma City at home Wednesday. This isn't the kind of team that the Clippers should need two superstars to beat. 

But without Leonard, and with George, Patrick Beverley, and Landry Shamet on minutes restrictions, the team couldn't generate enough offense from only Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Harrell had 18 points in the first half, but he was the only player in double figures. Even as he had his way in the paint, the Kings were cashing in threes at a remarkable rate on the other end. 

Sacramento averages 12 made threes per game, but they were finding a consistent diet of open looks from beyond the arc against a lackadaisical Clippers defense. The Kings hit 15 3-pointers in the first half alone, as five players had multiple triples. L.A. led 33-23 with less than a minute left in the first quarter and ended up trailing by 17 at halftime. 

There was no individual culprit. Rotations were late, the Kings got into the paint at will, and the Clippers didn't have enough offense to get into a shootout. Even during George's minutes, of which there were only 19, L.A. was outscored by six points. 

De'Aaron Fox led that for Sacramento with 34 points on 14-of-24 shooting and eight assists. Cory Joseph, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic each chipped in at least 15. Meanwhile, Shamet hit 5-of-8 threes, but the rest of the team shot 8-of-23 from beyond the arc. 

Nevertheless, Rivers was quick to flush this game away given that the Clippers didn't have their best player, and it was the first game in four days after a harrowing week in Los Angeles. They got this game out of the way, and can now look ahead. 

"They played hard, they executed their stuff," Rivers said postgame. "We were clearly flat in every single area.

"I'm glad it's behind us."  

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