Clippers cruise past Kings in the capital city
The Clippers had an odd streak in play going into Sacramento on New Year's Eve. They had lost four straight games in which they held a double-digit lead.
Against the Kings, the Clippers ended that ignominious streak, building an early lead and holding it throughout in their 105-87 win. In the process, they extended another streak by winning in Sacramento for the 14th consecutive game. The Clippers haven't lost on the road to the Kings since March 19, 2013.
The key to the Clippers' win was ball movement. Defenses have been loading up on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and their ability to read doubles and make plays for their teammates is critical for offensive success.
Against Utah Saturday, the duo combined for eight assists, often settling for contested shots at the expense of passing to open teammates. They were much better at moving the ball against Sacramento. Though their 14-of-46 shooting performance was barely better than the 12-of-44 outing versus the Jazz, their 16 assists put the rest of the team in much better position to carry the load.
Moe Harkless was a prime beneficiary, scoring 10 of his 12 points off assists. Harkless was ready to spot up or cut whenever the defense overloaded, and the Clippers are undefeated this season (6-0) when Harkless hits double digits.
Montrezl Harrell appeared to still be a bit under the weather after missing Saturday's game with an illness. He still contributed 7 points and 6 rebounds, and the Clippers certainly benefited from his energy.
He only played 24 minutes, leaving more than the usual amount of time for Ivica Zubac. Zubac spearheaded a stingy defensive effort for the Clippers, which helped keep the team afloat while the offense worked out the kinks. Sacramento shot 41.2% from the floor, and the Clippers outrebounded the Kings 51-41, led by Zubac's 13 boards.
A main source of concern heading into Sacramento was that the Clippers were down two point guards. Patrick Beverley sat out with a right wrist injury, and Lou Williams was away from the team to be there for the birth of his baby boy Syx.
Derrick Walton Jr. filled in admirably at the one. Landry Shamet got the start, but he picked up two quick fouls, giving Walton the early opportunity. Walton continues to play mistake-free basketball, making the right reads on offense and being in the right place on defense. He scored a career-high 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, making his case to be the first option among the young guards (Walton, Jerome Robinson, and Terance Mann).
The Clippers finish the calendar year 24-11, their best record through 35 games in the Doc Rivers era.